Full text of communication expert Antoni Lacinai’s talk: 6 Communication Truths That Everyone Should Know at TEDxVasa conference. In this age of digitalization, are we at risk of losing our analog communication skills? This talk by Antoni explores that pertinent question in some detail.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Antoni Lacinai – Communication Expert
Friends, I have a confession to make: I sometimes do stupid, stupid things.
For instance, when I’m at home, having made dinner for the family, and I want my kids to join us, I bring out the phone and send them a message: “dinner is ready.” This is really embarrassing, because they are not in another part of the city, they are in their rooms: 15 steps from where I’m standing.
And I can see on your face, you realize as well, as I do, that this is a crazy stupid behavior, but I still do it. Why?
You know why? Because I’m lazy, and it’s so easy.
Wouldn’t you agree that it’s much easier to inform than to engage? That it’s much easier to pretend that you’re efficient, when you’re just adding to the digital noise? And I should know better.
For the last 25 years, I’ve been studying the success factors of analog communication in an even more digital world. Things like, what you say, how you sound, how you look, how you listen, and also skills you need if you want to achieve results, when you cooperate, when you sell and when you lead.
If you want to be a great leader, you also want to be a great communicator. You want to communicate with energy, with clarity, and with empathy, energy, so that I believe that you believe.
Clarity, so you take away as many misunderstandings as possible. And empathy, so I feel that you get me. And this is really hard to do. It takes time to master this: effort, willpower. And it’s so much more tempting to just cruise down the digital highway, to enter the candy store of digital tools and digital toys where you can swipe left to right or like something or just spend time there.
So the question is: as we go down and as we wander deeper and deeper into this digital candy store, are we losing our communication skills? Are we risk losing at least? And the answer unfortunately is yes.
There are challenges that we should be aware of.
First, as the digital consumption goes up, the level of empathy is going down, especially but not only, among young people. And this is alarming but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, because the time you spend in your bed or sofa, or by your desk, interacting in the digital space, it’s time you don’t get to practice social skills in your analog space.
Second, we are more and more impatient. 25 years ago, the communication experts said that we had an attention span of about 20 minutes, which coincidentally is the maximum length of a TED talk. Recently though, I was told by a university professor that we are down to three and a half minutes. The change is staggering.
We are becoming the scanning generation: scanning for likes and executive summaries and nuggets of information, quick things, quick fix, instant gratification.
The third challenge is that we are constantly interrupted now, more than ever before. And just imagine yourself being in a face-to-face conversation with somebody, and the phone rings. You don’t have to pick up the phone, but you do have to pick up the conversation because you just got disconnected.
And this will only increase as we add more and more communication channels because here’s the thing, just because we add more and more communication channels doesn’t mean we add more and more communication quality.
You know, we used to only have two channels, couple of million years back: body language and voice. A couple of 100,000 years ago, spoken words: three channels. A few thousand years ago, we invented the written language: four channels.
Now we can even skip body language and voice. And then of course, it progressed. And with electricity came the broadcasting services, like radio, TV, newspapers. And then we have telefax, telephone, computers, SMS, email, mobile phones, video conferencing, chatting, PowerPoint. God bless us all. And then of course, social media with all the messenger services around it. Multiple channels.
So, what can we do in this situation? I say, we should reclaim and enhance our focus on analog communication skills.
Over the years, I’ve gathered some 12 – 15 communication truths or principles or lessons, and I’d like to share some of them with you right now. First three generic ones – universals – before we step into some more practical hands-on lessons as well.
So, are you ready? Okay. Fasten your seat belts because here we go.
Lesson number one: you cannot ‘not’ communicate everything about what you communicate: what you wear, what you eat, what you drive, what you say, what you do, everything. If you enter the office looking like that, or if you come to the school to pick up your kids looking like that, you might think that you are all so busy, all so cool, a top performer, but chances are that your colleagues or your kids will think, ‘Huh, whatever is on that screen is more important than me.’
I don’t know about you but I’ve been that person, you know, to my kids when I pick them up from candy or… and then they say; “Can you please turn off the phone when you pick us up, daddy.” It doesn’t feel so good when you hear that. First lesson.
Second: you cannot say what you mean. Our brains are not computers. We don’t have linear thought processes. We are messy, so whatever comes out is not exactly what you intended, and it gets worse because every one of you have your own interpretation, or what I’ve just been saying, and that goes for you as well. Everyone. And depending on your own filters, you will have different memories of what I’ve been saying afterwards.
Take that with you as well, and let’s go to lesson number three. You have a power; you can make people feel the way you want them to feel. What you think, what you say, what you do will affect not only how you feel, but also how they feel, which will affect how well they perform.
So, be careful what thoughts and words and actions you cultivate because they will make an impact. If you praise me, I’ll get happy. If you cry, I’ll get sad. If you show me 51 boring corporates’ PowerPoint slides, I’ll get sleepy. Cause-and-effect. So those were three universal ones, generic ones.
Let’s go into some more practical ones, hands-on lessons as well. Are you okay with that?
Okay, so now we have to look at, you know, what I mean with practical ones. Well, where do you really exercise your leadership on a day-to-day basis? If you’re a manager in an office environment, you spend at least half of your time in meetings. Am I right? Monday meetings, status meetings, project meetings, management team meetings, kickoff rallies, conferences, customer meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings all the time.
So, let’s put the next three lessons in a meeting context. And now you have to imagine, you have to imagine that you’re the head of product management for your company, and you just got an email from the VP of Sales and she apologizes and says; “Really sorry, I’m double-booked. In one hour, a new potential client will come to the office. Five people, the CEO, she will be there, the purchasing director, and some other people as well. And since I’m double-booked, you have to take care of this meeting. one hour from now.” That’s the scenario.