Influences on Communication
Read Time: 7 minutes, 10 seconds
Whether you are the sender of a message or the receiver, you speak and hear according to your own unique needs, feelings, experiences, and more. We referred to this as interference in the previous illustration. What this means in terms of communication is that often when you think you are being clear you aren’t and when others say they understand they don’t.
No one sets out to misconstrue or misunderstand communication. What and how a receiver gathers information is determined by their perception. Perception is a process whereby you select, organize, and interpret information from your environment, usually from your sensory impressions. In other words, you take what you hear, see, smell, touch, or feel and internalize the information so that it has meaning for you. Perception differs from the thinking process, decoding, in that reasoning has no part; perception happens instantly.
The four steps to perception are:
- Receiver selects information to process; selecting all or part of the message being sent.
- The receiver then organizes the information, pulling it together in a way that makes sense to them.
- Receiver makes sense of the message by linking it to something with which he or she is familiar.
- Receiver interprets the information so that it has meaning.
There are influencers of perception that everyone has and it impacts our communication, subconsciously altering the message and changing the meaning of the information we receive. These influencers are:
We perceive our sensory inputs (smell, taste, touch, sight, sound) based on our past experiences with important figures (family), impactful moments (first day of school), and relevant places (high school).
Peers, colleagues, online communities, and other social groups provide boundaries and defines for us what is appropriate or not.
The cultural group of which you are a member influences your perceptions. This includes ethnic backgrounds, church community, school, or work environment.
We tend to identify with those things that are consistent with our self-concepts, our mental image and how we picture who we are.
Our personal needs consist of our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. How we feel within each of these areas of need changes the filter in which we process.
What we care about and the level in which we care captures our attention and shapes our perception of any message we are receiving.
Time of day influences our ability to process incoming information no matter the medium. Your circadian rhythms also significantly influence communication. If you are a “morning person” you may hear or respond differently to a situation than you would at night.
What we value and devalue influences our perceptions and communication as our world around us is either validated or disproved based on our values.
The wider the gap a sender and receiver have in the above influencers the bigger the difference in their perceptions and the more difficulties they will have in their communications. To have effective communication you first need to be able to acknowledge your own influencers of perception.
Activity: Know Your Influencers
Step 1: Many people feel that the goal of communication is to be heard. This is not completely true. The actual goal of communication is to be heard and understood. In order for a leader to achieve this, s/he must be keenly aware of their own perception and the multitude of influencers and filters they perceive information through. Complete the table below to gain insight into your own perception.
Step 2: Then answer the following questions:
- Which team members do you have effective communications? Miscommunications?
- For those members where communication is effective, what makes it so?
- What makes the communication poor with certain members?
- Reflect on your recent communications. How has your perception impacted the outcomes?
- Which of your influencers appears to be triggered the most during communication? What is the impact?
- Since communication is the responsibility of the sender and you are the leader, how could you communicate differently moving forward so every communication is effective?
No one sets out to misconstrue or misunderstand communication. We go over the four steps to perception;
1. Receiver selects information to process; selecting all or part of the message being sent.
2. The receiver then organizes the information, pulling it together in a way that makes sense to them.
3. Receiver makes sense of the message by linking it to something with which he or she is familiar.
4. Receiver interprets the information so that it has meaning.
And we lay out an activity to "Know Your Influencers."