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Why Effective Communication Is So Difficult

Message sent doesn’t always mean message received. 

The barrel is the sweet spot on a baseball bat. You don’t even feel the ball make contact when you hit it squarely on the barrel. It just goes. Baseball has a stat for “barrels.” A barrel measures a player’s ability to put the bat’s barrel on the ball and generate hard contact. The more barrels you get, the more hard-hit balls that turn into base hits, leading to a higher batting average, more power, and ultimately, more success. Barrel up enough balls; the next thing you know, you’re hitting 429-foot nukes like Aaron Judge

As business people, we’re all in the communication business. That’s especially true of marketers. 

An article from professional trainer and leadership coach Alain Hunkins on Why Effective Communication Is So Difficult sheds some light on the subject and offers some advice to those wanting to take their skills to Judgian levels

Here’s what Hunkins writes:

“A survey in HR Magazine reports that of 4,000 employees, 46 percent said they routinely received confusing or unclear directions. If that weren’t bad enough, 36 percent of these employees reported it happening up to three times every day. Participants estimated they wasted about 40 minutes of productivity each day trying to interpret unclear or confusing directions.    

Good communication skills are no longer a nice to have – they’re a must-have. So, why is effective communication so hard? 

Are you familiar with the bottle ring toss game at a carnival?  The goal is to get the ring around the neck of the bottle.

It’s really hard to get one ring to land around a bottle. Now imagine three rings, all landing on the same bottleneck. Close to impossible.

The game’s object is to get the ring around the neck of the bottle. It’s really hard to get one ring to land around a bottle. Now imagine three rings all landing on the same bottleneck. Close to impossible. Lining up these three rings perfectly is the sweet spot for communication.

Communicating effectively is like trying to throw three rings around that same bottle.”

According to Hunkins, the three rings are:

communication-ringsHunkins says: 

“For the communication to be “perfect,” all three have to land on top of each other in complete alignment.

In other words, what you mean is exactly what you say, which is exactly what is heard. 

That happens about as often as a total solar eclipse.

Why is this so rare? Because most senders make a giant mistake:  they assume that what they mean is what gets heard; that what they say stays as intended: pure and unfiltered.

Why would they think that? Because they’re the primary source.  There are zero degrees of separation.  It’s as if they were playing the game of “telephone” with themselves.

Life doesn’t work like that.  The meaning can (and almost always does) change when messaged and then received.”

Here are a few tips Hunkins offers to take your communication game to new heights.

Great communicators are intentional. They know that the default is for messages to get twisted in the delivery process and be misunderstood.

They build checks and balances into their communication to make sure that what is meant is what gets said and then gets heard.

It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Communication is no different from hitting a baseball or running a marketing campaign. It requires conscious effort and work to improve. The first step is admitting you want to get better. From there, practice makes perfect.

Jason is a Partner and the CEO at Revel, a B2B marketing agency. He is a diehard baseball fan who loves his Detroit Tigers. Family vacations often revolve around seeing games in different MLB ballparks around the country – they’ve been to 21 so far and counting. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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