Today it is obvious that human resources are the added value of all organizations. But it is not always obvious that “soft skills”—those skills related to interpersonal behavior rather than technical expertise—are crucial to organizations. But their importance has emerged along with new organizational models that give more responsibility to individuals. For instance: The organization used to discipline communication channels; now this must be achieved by individuals alone. Decision making used to lie with a few well-defined persons; today, decision making is widespread across the organization. Conflicts used to be managed solely by middle and top management; today, all employees negotiate with one another. It is increasingly important that all professionals become familiar with soft skills. The Way Ahead will analyze and explain a number of these skills in upcoming issues. No matter what kind of job a person has, he must be able to handle the complicated interactions among individuals and within groups. —Michele Tesoro-Tess
To communicate, you need a transmitter, or better, a message, a receptor, and a context in which the communication process occurs. You also need a code to enable the receptor to “read” and understand the message.
The ingredients listed above are true for each and every type of communication, including communication between machines. Take, for instance, a fire-alarm system. The transmitter is represented by an outside element (i.e., smoke and/or increase of heat) that behaves in a specific context, which is the air in a room. The receptor is the sensor that “reads” the signal through a predefined code and reacts by expelling water or another liquid to extinguish the fire.
Between people, there is the advantage that the code is not given by an external entity but is sought by the two communicators while they establish a relationship.
For instance, it is easy to imagine how two people who speak two different languages, and use two different linguistic codes, try to use alternative ways to under- stand each other, such as the abundant use of body language and visual expressions.
At this point, we can pose a number of truisms:
To find the true meaning of communication, let’s examine the word’s Latin origins. Some experts believe that communication means put in common—“communis agere” or “cum munera” (with gifts). Others insist that communication derives from “cum moenia” (with walls, defensive ones). Obviously, this latter meaning is opposite to the former one, but we must not exclude it because in some ways the concept of communication does contain some ambivalence.
It is true that we communicate to share or put together information, data, or numbers. But it is also true that communication is used to exclude someone or to defend our- selves from someone or something. Examples include the specific information technology languages that exclude “normal” human beings from understanding, secret codes used during war to keep operations and plans from the opponent, and the invented languages children create to avoid adults’ understanding. Therefore, to communicate “with con- science,” one needs:
Being understood is a function that can be defined as “digital,” and it is positioned in the brain (left side) of the protagonist, enabling one to interpret in a logical way the meaning of the message. Being remembered is “analogical” and is normally positioned at “stomach level” or at the level of the heart (right side of the brain). This function permits allocating the specific message within a collection of other messages archived in the brain of the protagonist.
These concepts are much more complicated when one goes beyond the simple communication relationship “person-to-person” and considers the communication of a group with a group. Among a vast number of persons, one must consider that there are many potential “two-way” communication channels. Between two people we have only one open channel, and between three people we still have three “two-way” channels. But things get more complicated when the number of people is more than three. In fact, from four people on, in order to calculate the number of opened communication channels, one must use the Thelen formula. This formula may be synthesized in this way:
Number of channels=number of persons (number of persons 1) / 2
For instance, if a group contains six people, there are 15 open communication channels. In a group of eight people, the channels opened would be 28. It is true that in a group, the members do not always use all the channels available at the same time, but the presence of all these potential channels creates a pressure on the group. This pressure may have a number of consequences:
What does all this mean at an operative level?
Therefore, people making business presentations to large groups should consider several issues:
Say what will be said….
B. Central part where the message is described in detail, using a variety of logical schemes, such as:
While the first two logical schemes may be used without visual supports, the last three need continuous recalls to diagrams, charts, etc.
Say what you have said….
C. Conclude by summing up the logical scheme used and the issues explained, and give a personal statement.
Try to understand the psychological situation of the listeners and, therefore, the motivation of those who are “exposed” to your message. It is important to refer to the prevailing behavior, which could be
Remember that to receive a message and listen with ease, it is important in many cases to be able to see what is being presented. Therefore, it is important to verify the correct functioning of the audio system and ensure that slides can be seen clearly. Also check the temperature of the room and the comfort of the environment in general.