Do you ever find people don’t do what you’ve asked after you’ve spoken to them? Do your written communications not have the effect you intended? Maybe you’re forgetting about the communication funnel: the path of intention that runs through all our contact with other people.
What I want to say
What I actually say
What you hear
What you understand
What you remember
What you apply
According to some experts, we each have an average of around 55,000 thoughts per day – or 38 per minute! That’s far more than we could ever hope to formulate fully in our own minds much less express clearly in words. So it is absolutely vital that we focus our thinking and clarify exactly what we want to say before we utter a single word.
Our brains work faster than our mouths. Often when we speak, our thoughts wander off in all kinds of directions. That dilutes our message and makes it more difficult for others to understand what we want. Try to focus on expressing one thought fully before moving onto the next.
Whenever you listen to someone or read a text, your brain is continuously filtering the information you receive. Usually that’s very helpful – for instance when our brains remove all the ‘ums’, ‘errs’ and hesitations that most of us unconsciously include in conversation. But whether you are the ‘speaker’ or the ‘listener’, it’s worth remembering that the listener’s experience, state of mind and attention span will affect what they actually ‘hear’.
What makes sense to me might not make sense to you. We each have our own mental models of the world that affect what we visualize when we use a word. Even words as simple as ‘big’ can mean completely different things to different people. It’s all about perception.
Elephants may never forget, but the rest of us sure do. That’s especially true when we are faced with overly long, complicated or boring communications. As a communicator, you can’t do much about people’s memories but you can help them out by keeping to the point.
What a person actually does with the information you communicate to them is beyond your control. But if you’ve kept in mind all the previous steps, the final impact should be much more in line with the original intention. And it never hurts to double-check – whichever side of the communication you are on. Simply asking “Is this what you mean?” or “What do you think about what I’ve said?” can help avoid any mishaps.
Here’s an example of how understanding the funnel can streamline communication – in the end.
And here’s a guy who clearly never even thought about it.