Mastering the Art of Managerial Communication

Managerial Communication

Communication is an essential part of all human interaction. If two people work or live together for any length of time, they cannot help but communicate with one another. The form of communication may be verbal or written, through signs or body language, but it will be there. Even one’s aversion to engage with another will be communicated through facial expressions, or refusal to respond.

Communication is even more essential for managers because that is the only way in which a superior can effect change, and influence action by his/her subordinates in the direction of enterprise welfare. Therefore a good manager has, perforce, to be an excellent communicator, even though the converse is not necessarily true.

In the process of all forms of communication there are four basic elements: the communicator, the message, the medium through which the message is communicated, and a receiver or receivers. In Managerial Communication, however, there is a fifth element which is the most important of all. That is the correct comprehension of the message. Since managers do not communicate just to pass the time but to inform, educate, and/ or to motivate and thus persuade someone to institute a very specific action, proper comprehension of the message becomes essential. Otherwise, the wrong action may be initiated resulting in harmful consequences to the organization. This is ensured by a mechanism incorporated in the message itself which forces the receiver to respond with his understanding of the purpose of the communication. This is termed “Receiver Response.”

Why should a receiver understand something contrary to what is sought to be conveyed? The answer lies in the differences in perception, or cognition, of different individuals. This perception is essentially formulated by the individual’s socio-religious background, the level of his education, his upbringing, the set of values that have been inculcated in him, and the aggregate of his personal experiences. Thus when a plane is about to land and a stewardess announces, “The outside temperature is 30 degrees Celsius,”  it may be a very a precise statement climatically speaking, but an Arab passenger may consider it as actually cool outside. A Scandinavian may interpret it to be uncomfortably warm; while an Indian may take it in his stride. Three people have heard the same statement and interpreted it in three different ways, depending on their personal equations with the weather.

This sort of ambiguity in interpretation of a managerial communication could prove lethal for any organisation since different individuals might undertake diametrically opposed courses of action. These may not only cancel each other out, but may even put the organisation into a tailspin. Therefore, a good manager takes time to plan his communications in such a manner that they result in unified action right across the board. In this, he is greatly assisted by the receiver response that he elicits because it helps him analyse the shortcomings in his communication vis-a-vis his subordinates, and helps him word his messages so that they are uniformly and correctly understood by his audience in future.

There are some simple rules that may be followed by a manager to ensure this. They are:

1. Always avoid prefacing any message with words that have a negative connotation like failure, or death, or bad news, and so on because they trigger a fear psychosis in the receiver and his mental faculties may be colored by his apprehension as to what is to follow even if the eventual message does not impact him personally and is completely innocuous.

2. Try to frame the message in such a way that it follows the principle of clarity,that is it is expressed in language and transmitted in a way that can be readily comprehended by the receiver. There must be no empty words or phrases, lack of coherence, poor organization of ideas, platitudes, numbing repetitions, or unclarified implications and assumptions. Lack of clarity will require costly and time-consuming clarifications at some later stage.

3. Try to subtly point out the benefits that will accrue to the receiver if he does what you want of him. This is due to the fact that subconsciously every receiver asks himself the question, “What’s in it for me?”. If the answer to that is in conformity with his aspirations, he will willingly undertake the task.

4. Nobody, however eminent or successful, minds his ego being massaged. If you are familiar with the person, as you would be with colleagues and subordinates, a little bit of flattery to do with some recent accomplishment can work wonders in ensuring a favourable reception for any message.

5. In case you are addressing somebody unknown, the least that can be done is to word the communication in a way that the receiver feels important without his getting the impression that you are being familiar. This is achieved by opening with a statement like, “You will be pleased to learn that…” Instead of, “I/We would like to inform you that…”. 

6. Remember that one illustration (not necessarily graphic) is worth a thousand words when you wish to achieve maximum impact. Thus the statement, “If the entire history of Earth as we know it could be compressed into twenty four hours of one day, then Man would put in an appearance at 11:59 pm” is much more impressive and meaningful than stating, “The Earth was formed roughly four millions years ago but the creature known as Homo Erectus is only ten thousand years old by comparison.”

It is imperative that all communication, and management communication in particular, must be meticulously planned for it to be effective. Subtle nuances in the language and its use end up making all the difference at a subconscious level.

– Contributed by Prithviraj

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