Minding the Gaps: Intentional Communication and Presence

(Publisher’s Note: Today’s post is the third in a three-part series this week, all written by Hannah Morris, Director of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer GroupIn this series, Hannah is leading us through an examination of how we learn and grow, and how self-reflection can become a critical component in our personal and professional development. Hannah examines the topic from a variety of angles, and how we can harness its power to create a higher level of success and personal satisfaction. Enjoy!)

We can all identify moments in our lives when a communication gap has occurred. We meant one thing – in a conversation, or an email – and something entirely different was heard, read, or otherwise understood by our audience. Sometimes it is a blip that gets laughed off, other times it is a crisis that we have to work hard to mitigate.

Unfortunately, we must accept that, although there are many ways that we can control our communication – our words, our tone, our body language – we cannot dictate the way another person will interpret it. That’s up to them. It can depend on their mood, their experience, and other factors unknown to us.

Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do proactively to minimize these gaps. With awareness – self-awareness, audience awareness, situational awareness, and message awareness – and planning, we can tailor our communication to our audience and their needs and then adapt to their reaction. In our work as coaches and facilitators, we teach people the skills, frameworks, and approach to make the most of their communication.

But there is another type of gap that we should be aware of, especially in times when connection is strained, interactions are less frequent, and stress levels are high. Presence gaps occur in a very similar way, and can, too, be avoided.

Presence itself, and in particular “Executive Presence”, can feel nebulous and hard to describe. You “know it when you see it”, a combination of confidence, charisma, and command. But if you take a step back and look at how it works, presence itself is the relationship between three important variables. The first is our intent – what we feel and believe internally. The second is our impact on others – how they experience us and how we make them feel. And the third is the signals that we send, which others then interpret, and which create the connection – or disconnection; this is where the gaps occur.

While we cannot control how people interpret our signals, we can be more intentional in how we express our intent and more aware of the signals we send. Through introspection – frequent self-reflection and opportunities to see and hear ourselves with practices such as video review – and input – asking others for their perspectives – we can minimize potential gaps. And by taking full responsibility for all three factors, we can ultimately bring our intent closer to our impact, creating a version of our presence that has the greatest – most powerful and most positive – influence.

Finally, let’s keep in mind that, when exploring and evaluating our own communication and presence and that of those around us, we must maintain high levels of patience and compassion. Even with the best possible intentions, we will not always get it right. If we define success too narrowly, we risk frustration and disappointment, which can stymie learning. Growth is usually messy and uncomfortable; in fact, that’s often the best sign that it is happening.

If you have any comments or stories to share or questions to ask about gaps you’ve experienced or witnessed, please reach out. We are always glad to listen, learn, and help in any way we can.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.