Dissonance in business communication

Overcoming dissonance in business communication

Dissonance in business communication occurs when your message and behavior do not say the same things to your audience.  According to dictionary.com dissonance can mean disagreement or incongruity.  This often to happen when a spoken message is delivered to someone who exhibits body language or behavior that indicates another message entirely.  For instance the message to a co-worker: “Great news!! Bob got promoted!” is partially interpreted by what is said, but if the speaker said it in an annoyed, rude, or pensive fashion then the message really doesn’t seem to be great news at all.

Illustration of Dissonance in Business Communication
Bad Body Language

The message is interpreted by the listener and both the message and the messenger are judged by the speakers delivery.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that you’re fairly successful at business communication when speaking to people so this doesn’t apply to you.  Maybe it doesn’t but it when looking at this type of situation I can say that I know I’ve made these types of mistakes at times and it certainly applies to me.  In my efforts to obtain better human relations skills I came across a work of Dr. Mark Goulston titled Just Listen.  In it Mark talks about this type of dissonance and lists (among many other things) a survey which you can get your close friends and business constituents help you with to identify areas that might be keeping you from getting through to people.

Dissonant Behavior Survey:  Survey several people who are close to you about how you might rub people the wrong way.  Let them know that you are trying to improve your business communication skills and ask them to identify the top three ways from the list below that you might annoy someone.  Be sure to accept their judgements without criticism and thank them for their help.

Dissonance creating behaviors:

  • arrogant
  • hyper
  • needy
  • overly opinionated
  • impulsive
  • rigid
  • nit picky
  • passive
  • indecisive
  • demanding
  • hostile
  • stuffy
  • over sensitive
  • sly
  • untrustworthy
  • mellow dramatic
  • rude
  • shy
  • pessimistic
  • abrupt
  • excessively perky
  • close minded

Once you have received the results of your survey compare them and look for areas that they all agree on. If you really want to be effective with this survey ask your sources to elaborate on the behavior they identified.  They will probably be reluctant to be directly critical of you and tell you that others “may or could” view you with the traits they mentioned because they won’t want to offend you.  Ask them what it is that could make you seem that way and what they think you could do about it.  You will then have the information needed to directly analyse your own behavior and improve your method of face to face business communication.

In the weeks after completing the survey study your own behavior as you interact with people and look for manifestations of the behaviors you identified.   Once you’ve reached a higher level of self awareness about your targeted behaviors you can go to work on them.  For instance you could talk to the people you work with or do business with and tell them that you are trying to improve your performance in the targeted area because you’d like to become more effective in the role that you deal with them in and then ask them how you can do better in that particular area in the future.  If the trait is so ingrained in your personality that you cannot change it then you can pre-disclose the matter in future face to face business communication to keep it from being a distraction from your message.

I hope this helps someone as much as it has helped me. If you’d like more information about this method read or listen to Dr. Goulston’s book Just Listen,

– Joel
Meridian, MS

July 2011 in Retrospect

July 2011 in Retrospect:  Too busy to write but things are looking promising.

July 2011 in retrospect has been a tough on my blogging efforts.  My latest project has taken up so much time that between it, my day job, and my family, it’s been hard to get time to write.  This post makes number four during this month which is a considerable decline from what I’ve accomplished in the past so I guess I’m not to happy about the blogging results this month.  I never thought I’d be writing in a manner that anyone in the world could see my thoughts but I’ve found the process rewarding and I don’t intend on letting it go.  Some of the difficulty finding writing material stems from the confidential manner of the projects I undertake.  I tend to focus like a laser beam on what I’m trying to accomplish and when I’m putting a lot of effort into developing functionality for an entity that has exposed their core competencies to me the it tends to create a pool of experiences that I’m not comfortable talking about.  I value the trust that other have placed in me so I can’t write about things that they’ve placed in my confidence on the web for anyone to see.

That being said…  I’ve recently had the pleasure of hooking up with some of the brightest and hardest working people I’ve ever enjoyed working with in my life.  They’ve given me a chance to make a difference in in what they do by utilizing my technology and business skills to improve the efficiency of their process by leveraging technology to automating tasks and procedures and streamlining data flow.  I’m enjoying a synergy of the management, business, and technology skills I have in fuller manner then ever before and I appreciate the opportunity to analyse, innovate, and create that they have offered me.  Putting the icing on the cake,  I’ve been able to pull my brother Jeremy from valleyflight.com in on the project and I always enjoy working with him.  He has a depth of technical expertise, is always helpful, and listens to my ideas without telling me that I’m crazy for thinking too big.

Hopefully August will be a better blogging month.  I’ve got a packed schedule and I know that time will be an issue, but having experienced the power of blogging and how it helps shape thoughts and expression, no matter how busy I get I won’t be quitting the blog.  Sometimes I kind of think of this thing as a big public diary… I write about the things that fascinate me and some of the things that I’m doing and I’ll get the chance to go back someday and it will all be here.  I’ll be able to look back at this along with those that I know and love and see the path I’ve taken along with the milestones of yesterday.

July 2011 in retrospect: Here’s to casting a message in a bottle into the sea of information in hopes that someday it will was up on a future shore and I’ll see it and remember where I was when everything changed.

Be blessed,



Business Leader as Storyteller

I’m still doing research on this business leader as storyteller concept.  I’ve downloaded the audible version of All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin and maybe it will shed some light on the subject.

I can remember when I was in Jr high school and later in high school going to the library and reading every Louis L’Amour book I could get my hands on.  I read plenty of other authors as well and spent many of my days escaping from the mundane experience of high school by vicariously enjoying life through the words of a story teller.  For the most part the books were fiction and I knew they were not true but I gleaned plenty of understanding about people, geography, history, and many other subjects from these stories.  I also read some autobiographies and biographies which I thought were interesting.  The manner in which many of these works were written stimulated my imagination and ignited a passion in me to learn more, which was something my high-school teachers could not get me to want to do.

Now don’t get me wrong when I mention story telling as a way of doing business.  I’m not advocating dishonesty here. When I mention story telling I’m talking about what we’ve got to say about ourselves and our experiences.  There’s no doubt about it that the things we think about all day and the stories we tell others are what defines us and if we’re in business it’s what defines our business.  There is an art to explaining things to people and marketing ourselves and I believe that it has a lot to do with our ability to tell stories… authentic stories people will listen to and want to learn more about.

Stories are a great tool for leaders because they:

  • Can encapsulate and drastically simplify very complex concepts and environments in a manner that makes them easy to understand.
  • Can be used as a lenses that the audience uses to interpret the facts and make them relevant.
  • Engage the imagination and the attention of an audience that might not otherwise be receptive.
  • Can be used to engage the emotional side of the audience in situations where facts alone would not or conversely to disengage an audience from an emotional response when the facts would warrant one.

I’m still working on my story and hopefully after listening to this book I’ll have a little more to share.

– Joel

Methods From Dale Carnegie’s: How To Win Friends And Influence People

I use this outline as a refresher for the material I studied in the book. It’s a great read, or better yet, get it from Audible.com and listen to it while you commute to work.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six ways to make people like you

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Smile.
3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Win people to your way of thinking

1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it. Avoid arguments like you would avoid earthquakes and rattlesnakes.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, You’re wrong.
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying yes, yes immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behaviour. Some methods to accomplish this:

1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

Hope you find this useful.
– Joel