Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Communication Has Many Dimensions - Direct & Indirect"

Communication is a complex phenomenon. We experience it primarily through our senses, but communication may be the by-product rather than the chief aim. Communication is messaging - in some form. Generally, it is verbal - something we say or hear, visual - something we see or show to someone else, or something we feel. In in this last way that communication might even be unintentional.

For something we feel, let's say that we bumped into the edge of a table. It communicated to us - though not audibly or intentionally - that it was hard, that it would leave a mark, that it hurt or was at the very least uncomfortable, that we were not paying close enough attention to where we were walking, or that we generally had been hasty or careless. Did the table know that it had communicated this? Don't think so.

This same kind of communication can occur with the sun (sunburn), a hot burner or pan, a sharp knife or another cutting implement (or even worse a dull one), a jagged piece of broken glass or the chipped rim of a drinking glass or plate, scalding water from a faucet, a can of vegetables falling from the shelf or something frozen falling from the freezer and landing on our foot, a slippery floor, or something frozen that we hold onto too long. There are several more examples around the homefront. All of these items communicate their message to us in the form of some type of pain or discomfort - letting us know that we have mishandled or disrespected them.

In a presentation or conversation where we are gathering information or getting to know someone, we speak or ask questions, but the other person must hear what we said. Then, there has to be an interpretation of what we mean before there can be a response or any type of understanding. Sometimes there is a reflexive response before the other person really deciphers what we said. And so it goes.

If we put something in writing - an email, a flyer, a piece of direct mail, a tri-fold, or an ad in a paper or online - the person seeing it, even if it wasn't specifically addressed to them, must identify with the message before deciding if they want to take it a step further and reach out to us.

To complicate the act of communication - really the art of it - people have so many filters that they use to examine and interpret the message. Their lifetime of experiences determines how they view what is presented to them, how interested they might be in a new idea, how it compares to something they are familiar with from their past, how they already don't like it because it reminds them unpleasantly of something in the past, how much or how little they value the opinions of others, and how likely they are to make a decision or need plenty of encouragement and validation before this can happen.

Whether people primarily learn and communicate visually, by hearing, or through touching or feeling has a bearing on they receive and understand messages. The way we deliver something to them may not coincide with their preferred or dominant learning method.

There can be language or cognitive limitations to how a message is received and processed. If people don't understand what is being presented or advanced by us, or they can't relate to it, it's going to come up short.

We can talk, we can present photos or bullet points, we can use examples of products for them to look at or touch, but there must be a total comprehension of what we are discussing or there can be no communication. The listener - the potential client - must understand what we want to do for them and how our proposed solution will help them. Otherwise, it's quite likely they are not going to want what we are recommending.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.