When we do media and ambassador training for clients and organizations, there is one area that I discuss with them as more important than all others when trying to communicate a message to a listener – noise.
And, there are two types of noise to be mindful of when speaking (or listening) to someone. The first is physical noise. We are all familiar with this. If you are speaking in a public space, you can have street noises, other conversations, store buzzers, store cashiers and tons of other noises that could impact how well someone can really hear your message.
However, there is also a second type of noise that no one else can hear, but can be twice as loud and distracting as physical noise. And that is mental noise.
Think about the last time you were at a speaking engagement listening to a presenter. It could be a sermon, a speech, whatever. Now, raise your hand if, for the full length of the speech, you did nothing but think ONLY about what the presenter was discussing. You didn’t think about what you would have for dinner that night, what time your kid’s soccer game is, if your mom is going to need to move into a nursing facility, what you did that day, what you have to do the rest of the day or any other thoughts.
Well, come on, we all do it. It is human nature. We tend to tune in and out when we are listening. And there is nothing wrong with this. However, when you are communicating to someone, you need to be mindful of this possibility, especially in very tense environments. Hospitals and their staff serve as an immediate example, as staff speaks with people who might have a lot of fears, worries, anxieties, sleeplessness and other barriers to hearing your message.
So what can you do about this? The first step is to be mindful of it. Be aware when someone may not be fully attentive, either by physical or mental noise.
Secondly, repeat yourself several times, if need be, for important key messages to ensure that they were delivered.
And thirdly, if you really want to ensure message delivery, don’t feel bad asking the listener to relay back what you said to them. The accuracy of the message delivered is more important than the possible embarrassment of suggesting the person wasn’t listening.
The silent noises are not quite visible, but know that they are there, ready to hinder your ability to deliver your message.