It is not always what you say, it is how you say it!

“Can you explain that?” “I am getting there!”, said in a clearly irritated tone of voice. And with that, there would be no second date! This happened to me on a first date, and as I really enjoy pulling in my own life experiences to work (because I think many can relate), I immediately thought “wow, this is a great example of sending the message” and the importance of sending and receiving messages related to relationships at home and work.

On the surface, there was nothing said that was inaccurate or necessarily ’wrong ‘. However, the delivery and how I received it, immediately changed the dynamic of both the conversation and the evening.

There are three elements of communication:

Tone of voice: how the character of your business comes through in your words, both written and spoken. It’s not about what you say, but rather the way you say it, and the impression it makes on everyone in your audience who reads or hears you.

Words: the words we choose are generally more important than often assumed. Certainly, when making a presentation we need to pay just as much attention to the words we say as the way in which we will present them – how our body language is, and the variations in our tone of voice.

Body language: a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express, or convey the information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch, and the use of space.

According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 communications rule, the elements of communication are as follows:


As you can see, there is much more to what we say than simply the spoken word. It is imperative that when we communicate, we take time to understand these three aspects of communication. How many of us have been on the receiving end of communication from someone and thought “that was rude” “he or she didn’t have to say it that way”? Most of us likely have experienced it a few times in our professional and personal lives.

A few years back and shortly after leaving the military, I delivered a message to a co-worker in which I thought I was passionate, motivating, excited, and really wanted to just kick start things and drive us in the same direction. However, my body language and tone told a completely different story. The style that worked with a bunch of A-type special operations soldiers, did not translate and was a great lesson learned for me. I learned it is also important to understand the audience in which the message delivery occurs. What might work with one group, may not work with the another.

In summary, it is an important skill for leaders to practice effective communication. It is not always what you say but how you say it and the best intentions and meaning said with the wrong tone and body language can do a lot of damage to the relationship of the team.

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