Developing Communication Mastery

This article first appeared on Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 2: Communicating, subscribe and buy here

My knowledge of communication comes from street smarts: from understanding people, their desires, and their motivations. Growing up on the streets of Belgrade not only gave me insights into the minds of the people, it also made me aware of their internal workings, feelings, and ultimate goals. My friends repeatedly told me that I have a great “hunch” for people.

This intuition helped me see through inconsistencies in speech, lies, and dishonesty and enabled me to see the weaknesses and hidden desires of the people around me. It also helped me to recognize immediately the good people. Rarely would I see someone, and not know who they truly were. Body language, a couple of tricks and easy tests would tell me exactly what kind of person I was dealing with. Now, maybe I sound cocky, but I’d say that my raw knowledge of communication surpasses what a lot of people learn from books.

What Are the Major Components of Communication?

As usual, I always like to approach things as scientifically as possible, dissecting the topic to its most basic and critical elements. Understanding the complex topic of communication requires more than an article; it requires your whole being to be tuned into another person, and sometimes to more than one person. It’s one of the reasons so many people hate meetings.

Let’s kick off with the short list:

  • Emitter
  • Receiver(s)
  • The Message

It’s pretty straightforward and simple, but being the complex beings we are, we don’t communicate in this binary mode. We activate a whole spectrum of senses, emotions, and gestures to fuel our communication.

Because of the complex nature of the way we communicate, we can divide the messages between:

Verbal Cues

  • Tonality
  • Stability
  • Volume

Non-Verbal Cues

  • Facial expressions
  • Gestures
  • Eye Communication (eye contact, pupil dilation, breaking eye contact, forcing eye contact)

Non-verbal communication carries the color and emotion of your communication. It is a two-way street that changes us as it happens. When we communicate, we emit thousand of little messages, and everybody interprets those differently. Most people have a basic intuitive understanding of non-verbal communication. They might not understand what is being communicated on a subliminal level, but they can describe how they feel about the person that they are talking to.

Verbal Communication Carries 38% of the Communication Spectrum

Tonality includes our tone of voice, timbre, tempo, and volume. Saying, “I am confident” to your boss in a quiet, wobbly voice does not convey confidence. The same thing goes when saying, “I am excited to be here today,” with a flat intonation. Verbal makes a big difference, but it only accounts for 38% of the overall impact of your communication.

Non-Verbal Communication Carries 55%

Non-verbal communication and all of its components leave a massive subliminal impact on the receiver of the message. Mastering your body language, facial gestures and eyes is a critical component of face to face communication. In this communication, our inner thoughts and feelings shine through to the surface. With the advent of digital communication where many people fail to learn (or forget) these skills, non-verbal communication skills can offer a significant edge to those who master them. If you underestimate the importance of these communications, you risk sending out messages that you never intended to communicate.

In order to master face-to-face communication, you have to control your emotions and posture without being too stiff or stark. You are supposed to understand what you want to achieve and actually use the emotion to get things done, to get them accomplished. This skill set helped me to gain trust from people to land jobs, to get amazing partners for my business ventures. It comes by striking a combination of honesty, passion, and enthusiasm.

Symbolism – Words and Images – 7%

Perhaps counter-intuitively the words that you write and say carry the least amount of significance in a social environment. They are more like a direction in which you are taking your conversation. They are just the tip of the iceberg. True power doesn’t come from words, it comes from within your whole body. Being a strong communicator doesn’t mean being the master of words, it means being the master of tonality, energy, and insightfulness of the people that are receiving your message.

Communication in person is so complex and sometimes overwhelming, that it is no wonder why so many people suffer from anxiety in a social setting. Working with people consumes a lot of energy, and it is very noticeable.

Being a strong communicator doesn’t mean being the master of words, it means being the master of tonality, energy, and insightfulness of the people that are receiving your message.

Effective Alpha Communication starts once we accept that we are nowhere near mastery of the fine arts of effective communication. This is one of the hardest things you can learn, understanding the language your body uses, and what kind of message is it sending out? Most of these things we do subconsciously, and we often need to retrain ourselves in order to achieve desirable communication.

Contextual Difference in Communication

Resonance of your mind starts to shift heavily when you dramatically change the environment, especially in a radical shift, like switching continents. I am not even talking about the language change, I am talking about the contextual difference in communication, that is initially subtle, and you can’t notice it as a tourist because your mind is still stuck in the old paradigms of your home environment. You can understand, but you can’t understand the difference emotionally.

People who move to another country temporarily or permanently will go through a culture shock, which is a consequence of this underlying contextual change in communication, as well as the change in the subliminal communication. This kind of journey will certainly force you into a new communication pattern, forcing you to learn more about yourself and others around you. In the whole process of my transition, I completely transformed as a person in just six months.

This contextual difference is most noticeable in the different cues we pick up in nonverbal part of the communication. For me, it was a massive shift into a new non-verbal language, which made it difficult for me to feel connected with people around me. People in my country are way closer to each other when we communicate non-verbally. I think that even the distance we keep between us (our “personal space”) is shorter.

You Want to Learn to Communicate Effectively? Take Lesson From Steve Jobs

One person that fully comprehended the emotional triggers that drive underlying human behavior was Steve Jobs.

Being an effective communicator means being a good salesperson. Steve’s whole life was basically about salesmanship. He was selling ideas to his employees, to his investors, to his developers and customers. He was gathering people around his ideas. He didn’t do anything by himself, but he did the majority of the work. Isn’t that fascinating? Read his biography by Walter Isaacson and you will have a better understanding what an insanely powerful communicator can create.

Communication and Social Strategy

When we communicate, we need to have a purpose. Even people like me that love to blabber have a purpose when communicating. For example, we have the biological need to be heard and understood. Majority of people have the need to be understood, and being heard is actually scarity. Fulfilling this need can help you create powerful alliances with other people. Listening is an advice that minority of people will follow. My personal social strategy is based on the hunch, searching for people that are ambitious as I am, and whom I can help achieve their goals and vice versa. Because I am very particular about the people I want to associate myself with, that means that I have to continually improve my social skills.

As you progress with your goals, you will notice that the most successful people have better communication skills than the most. There are always exceptions to the rule, but if you think about it, you will come to that conclusion. Successful people hang out with successful people, and all of them are good communicators, so it goes with the crowd. The bottom line is that brushing up your communication skills is essential for accomplishing your goals. Are you ready to listen and take an essential step closer to your goals?