Updated: Jun 18
Ever been bewildered that what you have said has been taken the wrong way or taken completely out of context? Have you had to provide more context or dig yourself out of a communication ‘hole’?
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Chances are that you have made some communication choices that have not considered all that lies beneath the surface communication – that is, more than what is actually being said and how the other person is behaving while you interact.
To help us make sense of the people we interact with, Dr. Ralph Colby created a relatable Iceberg model called The Whole Person Concept.
To understand this model you will see that at the top of the iceberg is the word behaviour. It is an analogy for people and what we see before our own eyes. However, below the surface, we see that behaviour is influenced by thinking & feeling, Values & Beliefs, and needs.
Now let’s explore what lies beneath the surface as this will help us gain more understanding and have more effective human interactions.
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Thinking and Feeling
Unlike the movie “What Women Want” featuring Mel Gibson, we don’t have superpowers to hear the innermost thoughts of others we interact with. However, once we understand that all humans are emotive creatures we can conclude that everything we say (or don’t say) is being filtered through their thoughts, feelings both past and present on the topic or ideas you are talking about.
Values and Beliefs
Science tells us that our personalities are a product of nature, our DNA make-up, and nurture, the environment and influences of the ‘tribe’ that surround us growing up. All the customs, traditions, and beliefs that are part of the culture we belong to also act as the sophisticated filter all interactions go through to gain meaning in effective communication. An example of this might be that some of us believe that it is very rude to be late to a party, while others believe they should leave an appropriate time after the set start time to be ‘fashionably late’. This is the Values and Beliefs filter at play and it can have very different outcomes depending on the audience and their beliefs on lateness.
At the very core of this model, we see both psychological and physiological needs of each human that need to be fulfilled. Answering ever-changing needs drive all of us to seek out options to satisfy us while still passing through our ‘filters’. For example, if you are hungry, you will look for options to satisfy your hunger. You will do this by using your values, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings about food. Other people observing you might only see the outcome or the behaviour of you eating something and they can conclude that you were hungry and needed to eat.
So why is this important for effective communication?
The take out here is to understand that you may not be getting the full story in only considering someone’s behaviours. You need to dig deeper, ask questions to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings or better still allow an inclusive ‘space’ in your interactions for them to share their deeper ‘filters’ and needs.
While the Iceberg model captures our attention to considering more beneath the surface, DiSC® is a needs-driven behavioural model that helps to decode an individual’s behavioural style in their environment. Using this profiling tool, we can understand ourselves, appreciate others and build better relationships.