framing your communication

the breakdown of words

Everyday we talk, explain, read, argue, ask questions,  discuss, and share. But with all those thousands of words being spoken on a daily basis (20,000 on average if you’re a woman, only 7.000 if you’re a man)  do we  know how communication  really works – or do we just have a vague notion? And if we don’t really know how it works how can we fix it when it doesn’t?

Understanding the basics of communication is at the very heart of who we are as people, and if you’re a business owner it should be at the centre of why you do what you do. After all without words we can’t explain what we need or want, we can’t explain why we are who we are and why we do what we do, nor why someone should want what we have to offer.

Most communication theories look at two distinct forms of communication: rhetorical and relational. The first is all about the art of persuasion and dates back to Aristotle. The second takes a close look at how at the communication within relationships, such as family, friends and romantic partners.

But whether we use our words to try and sell our ideas or products or whether we are just trying to get our loved ones to understand us, the true fundamental rule of communication always stays the same: how something is said and by whom always determines how something is understood.

This fundamental rule was described by Canadian-American sociologist and writer Erving Goffman  (1922-1982) as ‘framing ‘ and he believed that we had to adapt our behaviour to each frame (situation) to be able to truly understand the meaning of what was being said. In other words we have to know within what context something is being said, are we at work, at home, with a stranger or a friend.

However we often don’t spend enough time thinking about which ‘frame’ we are in before saying something, thus creating confusion and misunderstanding. Our communication, something seemingly innately natural and instinctual, breaks down and we often don’t even realise it.

So while every person, every relationship, and every situation is different if we take the time ‘frame’ what we want to say our communication will be much more  direct, clear and considered.