Blueprint for raising communication skills

Saturday July 08 2023

A woman speaks in a megaphone. PHOTO | AFP


I googled the word “communication” and received over 60 million responses. Why then are so many leaders struggling with it and making a complete mess of it?

First, many people focus on the content of the communication at the expense of the context. Second, many people fail to realise that effective communication happens only when an emotion is triggered. People respond to the emotion your message triggers and not necessarily to what you said.

Indeed, two people can say the same thing yet get completely different results. Two people can read the same script and repeat exactly the same words, yet the words have a totally different impact on hearers. This is why some people get chosen for roles after a movie audition while others are dropped. It is not what you say but how you say it and the emotion that accompanies your voice.

Read: BUWEMBO: We deny tribalism in public and curse when in small tribal groups

Many people, and even organisations, have faced failure simply because of their inability to communicate effectively. What you say is important, but how you say it is equally important.

Organisations that place a premium on the how are bound to do much better than those that just focus on the why when communicating with their teams. I have had instances where organisations hired me and paid my full rate to coach me on what they wanted me to tell their people and then paid me my full rate to tell the people. Why? It is not enough to know what to tell them. You must know how to tell them.


Exercise in futility

The difference between a person with good ideas that gain traction and good ideas that struggle is in the emotional connection that the ideas get with their audience. When in a foreign country and hear someone speak in your mother tongue, there’s a deep connection and stirs up something. You will say hello to the person just because they spoke in a language that made a connection with you. When working in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I bumped into guys speaking my native Yoruba. We immediately connected.

This illustrates the most important rule of communication; for communication to be effective, it must be carried out in a language the audience understands. No matter how fluent my Yoruba, and how intelligent my ideas, it would have been an exercise in futility if my audience were Swahili.

Read: How standard Kiswahili was created, spread

Therefore, getting information about your audience becomes a very important part of your communication journey. Who is your audience and what is their language of communication?

One of the best studies on this is the DISC behavioural model - a tool to help people understand and improve their communication and behaviour. It categorises individuals into one of four primary personality types based on their behavioural tendencies. These are Dominance (D): Individuals who fall under this type are typically assertive, decisive, and direct in their communication. They are often driven by results and take charge in a group setting.

Next is Influence (I): Those categorised here are usually outgoing, sociable, and energetic. They enjoy being around others and often have a talent for persuading and motivating people. Third is Steadiness (S): Individuals who exhibit this type are typically patient, reliable, and calm. They often prioritise maintaining stability and avoiding conflict in relationships. Finally, Conscientiousness (C): Often analytical, detail-oriented, and precise. They value accuracy and focus on ensuring things are done correctly.

The DISC model is often used in business and leadership contexts to improve communication and collaboration among team members. By understanding their own personality type and the personality types of others, individuals can adjust their communication styles and behaviour to better work with others and achieve common goals.
Next week: More on the DISC model.

Wale Akinyemi is the founder of the Street University Email: [email protected]