One of the great things (among many) about being in the Real Estate Industry is the fact that although we may be in business for ourselves as independent contractors, we are not in business by ourselves. Recently, Laura June and I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the NEXTGENre conference in Burnaby, BC. I was invited by the organizer, Virginia Munden, to share some thoughts on effective communication in any market. That topic is of course a daunting one given the scope of what technology has done to our communication focus over the last 20 yrs. What can we do in this day and age to rise above the noise of the technology revolution and make ourselves heard...and more importantly, be remembered.
As a child raised in a non-English speaking household by immigrant parents, communication with my peers and cohorts was a true and pressing need. Conversation was at times awkward due to the confusion in my linguistic skills, so I took to drawing. I would create elaborate comic books, illustrating stories of super heroes and villains. This was enough to break the ice with the neighbourhood kids and open the lines of communication. It wasn’t long until I had new friends coming to see me to read my adventure comics. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had created a channel of communication that existed beyond mere conversation. Later my drawings were replaced by other methods of creating communication channels, like music and creative writing.
So, what is the difference between conversation, and communication?
The root of the word conversation is the Latin word, "con". “Con” means “with”. Other words with the same root are content, connect, consider, and even Con man. On the other hand, the Latin root of the word, communication, is “com” which means “together or “in common”. The same root is used in the words commune, communion, compromise, and commit. Communication is deeper than conversation. Communicating is getting inside the mind of the other. It is that almost spiritual connection that one makes with another. In order to communicate, there must be an active internalized participant. Imagine a radio signal…it only fulfills its purpose when a receiver is tuned to the proper frequency. Conversation is not necessary to communicate...but communication is enhanced by engaged conversation. A conversation can occur without the parties actually internalizing the content of the discussion. In fact, two conversations can occur at the same time without either actually communicating.
Communication on a deep level is one of humanity’s most effective tools. Chimpanzees share 99 per cent of our DNA. There is only one per cent that separates them from us, but imagine a stadium filled with chimps. The result would be chaos of the highest order, a significant contrast to the focused community experience that sports fans enjoy when congregating in a stadium. As humans our greatest achievement as a species is the ability to create community. We communicate and internalize our mutual interests in a way that allows us to organize and work for the greater good.
Communication can be both verbal and non-verbal. A full 58% of our communication is via body language, while 38% is via the tone of our voice. Only 7% of communication is the actual word being spoken. Ask anyone who has had a cross cultural romance and they will verify that language only plays a small part in effective communication.
When the destination is effective communication keep in mind that you, as the communicator, must break through many internal walls to connect with the receiver. Not unlike that distant radio signal, the correct frequency must be dialed-in to hear the full signal before communication is achieved. The communicator must make themselves memorable and credible in order for a listener to actually hear what is being communicated.
So, how do we make ourselves memorable?
First, know your desired audience. Understand their response words and their hot button words, in short...speak to them in their language. Keep in mind that different demographic groups and geographic regions use language in different way. Language changes over time. One only needs to read Shakespeare to understand how the English language has evolved...or listen to a twenty-year-old speak to understand that words can change their meaning significantly in just a couple of decades. One example is that it wasn’t so long ago that the word sick was a negative word that meant ill. In todays speak, sick is a positive and affirmative word that would have interchangeable with “groovy” fifty years back.
Techniques like using rhyme, repetition, and unexpected twists of a phrase can also work to draw a recipient into a communication. The lawyer, Johnny Cochrane, was famous for connecting with the jury at the O.J. Simpson trial by repeating the rhyming phrase, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit". Winston Churchill is remembered for his rallying cry to, "Never, never, give in!" These are great example of "sticky" communication that adheres to our memories through the use of rhyme and repetition. Newspaper headlines often use alliteration, (like “REALTOR Reads Rave Reviews”), to capture attention in the hope of engaging the reader to communicate information.
Tapping into the theatre of the mind is a wonderful way of being memorable and creating a communication flow. This has been used by effective orators and radio ad copyists over the years. By using visual descriptive language and sounds, a mental picture can be created by the listener’s imagination. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who didn't hear the music". The mental picture that quote creates makes it both memorable and thought provoking. The image of the dancing figures dancing insanely sticks in the brain.
Finally, to sums things up when it comes to meaningful communication...it is the effort that counts in our attempts to reach into the soul of another. Of course, we don't always have the right words or phrases, or even the correct medium, but the first step is being aware of what communication truly is, who we are attempting to connect with, and then modifying our methods and systems to create that communication that exists beyond words and conversations. As the great Canadian Poet, Leonard Cohen put it, "Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything...and that is how the light gets in."
Remember, the destination is communication not just conversation.