The Four Elements of Communication

The Four Elements of Communication

The Four Elements of Communication

By Mark Wager

Every team is different but the people within each team share the same traits. As a Leadership Coach I've worked with a dentistry in Holland, a brewery in Fiji, a hospital in Timor-Leste as well as schools, architects, hairdressers, in fact you name an industry and the chances are that I've worked with a team in that industry. Every industry has its own influences and every team has its own culture and despite how unique every team looks from the outside when you dig deep you see the same issues because every team consists of people and people have unique ways in which they communicate and if the team is not aware of how people are communicating differently then miscommunication occurs.

My own personal definition of effective communication within a work environment is when everyone has all the information they need in order to perform their job to the best of their ability. Ask yourself if everyone in your team is communicating effectively with you and then ask yourself if your team was asked the same question how would they answer? Communication is one of the biggest issues within every team, communication especially verbal is just a major part of work yet it's rare that we take a step back and analyse just how effective we are. If we did we would see the most common mistake of communication, one which l see in every team in every industry in every country I've worked.

The most common mistake of communication is that people tend to believe that everyone else sees the world the same way that they do so when they receive communication. They use this view of the world as a lens in order to determine the intent of the message. This is a lottery as the chances of the sender of the message having the same unique view as the receiver of the message is incredibly unlikely. The majority of times people are lucky that the message is so simple that the intent is irrelevant or the misunderstanding doesn't have much consequenc yet there are instances in which misunderstanding causes unnecessary conflict and demotivated staff. In my experience over 90% of all conflict issues that I've been called in to address have poor communication at their root. These miscommunication issues are a drain on a team both in terms of emotions and time, yet communication can be greatly improved if people can understand the different communication preferences that all people share.

Everyone has a unique preference in how they communicate. This preference is a combination of the four fundamental building blocks of communication. These building blocks are what I call the four elements of communication. Once you understand these elements then you can see which proportion of each element makes up your own unique communication style which in turn highlights your natural strengths and areas of development.

We are all of these elements yet each of us has a different proportion of each one in order to create our own unique communication style.

Element of communication: Fire
People who have a high proportion of fire within their communication style possess a preference to burn through the emotions of a situation in order to focus on the logical conclusion. They tend to make decisions quicker than other elements yet can be easily viewed as being uncaring and not taking people's feelings into account. The fire style doesn't view itself as uncaring, instead it views itself as an efficient force of nature burning away all inconsequential concerns on its way to its goal.

Element of communication: Water
The water communication style takes into account other people's concerns, feelings and values. Like water taking the form of those around them. They see everyone as unique so every problem requires a unique solution that aligns with their own values. They come into conflict with the fire style as they believe an effective outcome can only exist if harmony is intact while fire can often focus on a result regardless of harmony. The water style can often be misunderstood and seen as being soft and too emotional. This is wrong as the outcomes of both water and fire can be the same just the method of delivery and mental process differs greatly.

Element of communication: Earth
If they have a high proportion of the earth element within their communication style then their natural focus is on hard specifics and details and they prefer to receive information in a sequential step by step way. Influenced by facts, figures and practical applications they view these as solid and as firm as the ground below. They are often seen as realists but can be viewed incorrectly as being too grounded and obstructive to change yet like the earth itself, they do move but do so slowly and they require credibility in the communicator and their expertise.

Element of communication: Air
The last element of communication is Air. This communication style sees ideas like clouds in the sky, they see ideas floating out there and they have a talent to connect those ideas together yet others may not see these connections so while they see themselves as visionaries, others see them as dreamers and unrealistic. Often seen as "big picture" communicators they have a preference to see the end solution and the possibilities of that solution before they have worked out the steps to reach the solution.

Our own personal view of the world is formed by our communication style. It's this style that is made up of the four communication elements that have been briefly described above. Each of us has a different proportion of each element. Some of us are heavily influenced by fire which makes us come across as efficient and to the point yet to others as blunt while other may have earth as their largest element which can make them communicate as inspirational visionaries yet to others appear as unrealistic dreamers. This is just a brief overview to what is a very complex subject and is the reason why I spend days with teams showing them how to adapt their communication in order to become more effective. Yet with all teams who improve their communication they all start their journey with the same step which is the acceptance that it's not what you say but it's what you hear that counts.

If you want to know more about communication contact the Author of this article, Mark Wager via the enquiry form below.

Image courtesy of Vlado at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted: Monday 15 August 2016


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