Effective Communication in High-Tech Times

By Shannon Moore

You talk to your spouse, your association president, your friends, an assocation director...what is so difficult about that? Nothing should be. We have done it since childhood. One-on-one communication is as easy as breathing? Or is it?

The talking part is easy. Communicating usable information one to one, or truly understanding what your communication partner is saying to you--that is the difficult part. You think that just because you can talk you can communicate effectively. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Effective one-on-one communication involves a whole series of learned skills, and in this age of sophisticated communication technology you would think interpersonal communication would be flourishing. But it is not. That, say authors Peter Urs Bender and Dr. Robert Tracz, is due to the fact that few people take the time (or feel they even have the time) to learn the necessary skills. Worse still, most people are not even aware that communication skills can be learned.

Bender (author of three best-selling business books and keynote speaker) and Tracz (a professional speaker and personal development coach) saw the need for a guidebook on communication skills. They call it Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication.

They realized individuals in government, education, medicine, association and industry sectors needed to be trained in one-on-one communication to function effectively in the workplace.

Both saw individuals genuinely trying to communicate, but noticed that this interaction often resulted in very little understanding. In fact, misunderstanding was more often the rule as face-to-face communication went awry. Whatever the size of the organization, ineffective interpersonal communication was hindering growth.

Both men believed everyone could learn to communicate freely, persuasively and with confidence. So they set about to create a guidebook that would help.

Central to the belief of both men is that a systematic approach to one-to-one communication will help anyone excel at improving their skills. Communication is one of the most important and fulfilling activities humans can accomplish, but like any human activity it needs to acquire some conscious structure in order for it to proceed with success.

From birth, humans begin to communicate. If they do it well, they may achieve success byond their wildest dreams. If they do it poortly, they can be condemned to a life of mediocrity and unhappiness.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of our communication activities are performed subconsciously. We use whatever communication skills we have whether we are aware of them or not. The object of Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication is to make individuals more conscious of how they communicate and how they can change their style to become better at it.

Certain aspects of one-on-one communication are critical to its success. Listening, questioning, understanding personality differences and non-verbal communication (NVC or body language) are crucial, says Bender.

The ability to listen and to respond with intelligent questions is more difficult than it first appears. The average rate of speech is about 150 words a minute. The average rate of hearing 500-750. Unless you listen attentively and participate in the communication process, you can be easily bored.

Active questioning indicates to your partner you are interested in the communication process. You are participating in an exchange of information.

The trick is to use these skills appropriately when dealing with different personality types. Bender identifies four broad personality types that enable you to determine how a person is behaving at any given moment.

He labels the four types The Amiable, The Analytical, The Driver and the Expressive. They are broad portraits, simplified so as to be instantly recognizable, but each portrait is drawn from extensive psychological, philosophical and behavioral research. (To find out what personality profile fits you, visit Peter Bender's Web site at and take the short, ten-minute test).

Once you recognize how a person is behaving, you can deal with that person on a communication level that is appropriate to the situation. Each individual responds differently.

For instance, there is no sense asking The Driver extensive questions. He or she only wants answers. But when talking to The Analytical, be prepared to answer questions about everything in detail.

The Amiable wants you to be prepared to answer the "why" questions he or she will ask. Do not push, do not rush and be a good listener. With the Expressive, ask and answer "who" questions and keep the details minimal.

It is when you combine the ability to listen, question intelligently and recognize personality types with the ability to "read" a person's body language that truly meaningful communication becomes possible.

Charles Darwin was one scientist who recognized that our ability to signal feelings, needs and desires was criticial to our survival. Non-verbal communication, or body language, reveals the truth about us more accurately than words. Studies have confirmed that it is more reliable, more accurate and more informative than what is said.

Bender says that if the body language differs from the verbal message, the message becomes confusing and listeners will go away with a feeling of disbelief. Desmond Morris, the British behavioral scientist says it most succinctly, "Even the smallest actions become gestures and gestures transmit messages." Those messages, if you understand them, enable you to read the individual and communicate effectively.

The unspoken assumption (even if intellectually we know differently) is that everyone sees, hears and feels the world as we do. Yet each of us receives, processes and remembers information differently.

Communication proceeds on visual, auditory and kinesthetic (or emotional) levels, so it is important to use sensory words that reflect that. Here is an example:

"I knew it was a robin because I saw its red breast," is a visual image.

"I knew it was a robin because I heard its cheerful song," is an auditory image.

"I knew it was a robin because I felt my heart swell with spring," is a kinesthetic image, loaded with emotional overtones.

Each of these images would react differently with visual, auditory, or kinesthetic people. If you are speaking to a group you might say:

"I knew it was a robin because I felt my heart swell with the joy of spring when I heard it's cheerful song and saw the flash of its red breast against the green grass." You have now communicated on all levels to your entire audience, not just a part of it. Everyone will get the message.

You have heard the phrase "I hear you!" It is fine if you are talking to an auditory person. But what about someone who reacts best to visual images: "I see what you mean," might be more appropriate. To someone who is emotional or intuitive you might reply "I understand you and feel the same way."

As well as understanding your partner's personality type, try to always respond to the appropriate sense of your listener. Your message will be perceived more rapidly and completely.

In Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, Bender and Tracz lay out dozens of practical and down-to-earth communication techniques and suggestions. Their objective is to make you more conscious of how you communicate and how you can change your style to become a better communicator.

Shannon Moore is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in many Canadian publications. Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada's most dynamic andentertaining business speakers, and the author of three best-selling books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, and Secrets of Power Marketing. His fourth book, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, is now in bookstores. He can be reached at 416-491-6690, or