Information Overload

Information Overload and the Art of Communication

Jonathan Wells

What does it take to connect with others so that our message stays with them? How can we frame our communication in a way that bypasses their built in perception filters and leaves a lasting impression?

As a writer, this subject is of special interest to me. Beyond that, the benefits of mastering effective communication touches our lives on every level. I believe it was Tony Robins who said that “the quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the quality of our communication.”

Have you ever noticed that a common denominator in many movie scripts is that the plot is built around a lack of good communication? Think about it. How often does unrequited love really boil down to un-proclaimed feelings, or wrong assumptions based on a complete lack of communication?

I can’t count the times I have been watching a movie and thought, “just tell them how you feel and quit playing these silly games.” Of course, that wouldn’t make for a very interesting plot, but here’s the thing…

Life is not a movie; we want to get it right!

If the quality or our lives is directly affected by how effectively we communicate, then it’s worth looking into, don’t you think?

So, what does it take for our words to actually register in the minds of those we want to reach? First of all we need to get past their IOF’s. People everywhere are being increasingly bombarded by way to much information.

How have we responded to this overwhelming effort to capture our attention? Our very survival in this mass media culture means that out of necessity we have all developed Information Overload Filters, or IOF’s.

The human brain can only process and absorb so much external data before it all becomes noise, or more accurately – static. Our home stereos come with built in static filters that allow us to enjoy the music without being annoyed by the unwanted noise. Well, adaptation has allowed us to develop something similar.

As the static increases, so do our filter settings

Have you found yourself ignoring more emails these days? Do you quickly discard unopened mail without hesitation? Are you starting to tune out conversations and advertisements at an unprecedented rate? Don’t feel like you are the only one. It has come down to preserving our sanity. Most of us have our IOF’s set on higher settings as the static continues to increase.
What’s the danger?

The flip side of continually turning up our information filters is that we will unavoidably filter out desirable information in the process. Does the phrase “throw out the baby with the bath water” seem to apply here?

This is where the art of communication comes in. Information Overload Filters are now a fact of life. This means that first of all, being heard requires that we make it past those filters. If your friends email spam filters are set too high, they will never know that you tried to reach them. If you can get them to white list your email address, then the filters will let your message go through.

How can we craft our words to get past these filters?

We need to touch them where they live. This means that we need to give them a legitimate reason to allot some of their precious time and energy to listening to what we have to say. If our conversation leaves them feeling that we contributed some value to their life, they may even white list us, so to speak, and open the door for continued interaction.

This principal applies equally to all areas of life and business. If you want others to give you the time of day, you need to give them a reason to do so. This means that listening to you MUST provide value for them on some level.

Keep in mind that this does not imply that everyone is now motivated by their own selfish interests. All it means is that there is a limit to how many different directions we can comfortably focus our limited attention. Information overload requires that we craft a stricter set of priorities to maintain our sanity.

The challenge belongs to the communicator

We can’t eliminate information overload, the fact is, that it is only going to get worse. So if you want to be heard, then it is up to you to develop the art of communication in a way that makes allowances for higher Information Overload Filter settings.

7 Ways to be heard in this age of information overload

1) Listen and learn. How can we communicate value to our listener if we don’t know anything about them or their current situation? This means that we need to actually pay attention to what is going on in their life FIRST! There is a saying that the reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth, is so we would listen twice as much as we talk.

2) Empathize. Being empathetic means that we try to put ourselves in someone else’s situation or circumstances. Make an effort to step into their life, to feel their pain or joy in your heart. If you want gain some insight and discernment into what they are experiencing, this is the way to do it.

3) Avoid making judgments. You can’t possibly understand all of the factors at work in someone else’s life. Like you and I, they are probably doing the best they can with what they have to work with. None of us has all the answers so do them the courtesy of not judging them.

4) Respect their feelings. We all have a right to our personal feelings. Often times, the worst thing we can do is to infer that someone’s feelings are invalid by saying, “you shouldn’t feel that way.” The most common response, internally at least, will be, “don’t tell me how to feel.” That’s a communication killer. Much better to legitimize their feelings by saying, “I can understand why you feel that way.” In case you are wondering, I learned this from 25 years of marriage.

5) Speak to their senses first. We are genetically hard-wired to pay attention to things we can experience through our senses. Talk to them in a way that allows them to picture and experience your expressions. Strive to help them experience the reality of your words in their imagination. Use your words to paint a picture that they can easily visualize.

6) Add an emotional component. Make sure that the mental picture you are communicating has feelings attached. We remember things that we attach emotional significance to. When the picture begins to fade, the feelings will bring it back to life. When you use your words to paint emotional word pictures in the mind of your listener, you will have touched them where they live.

7) Do it because you care. Sincerity cannot be faked. On a gut level, others know whether or not you actually care about their welfare. If you don’t care then just leave them alone, and go develop some compassion. Creating value needs to be rooted in genuine concern for others. The hard sell mentality and pushy domineering ways of the past are dead, and good riddance. Open your heart before you open your mouth, and everyone around you will feel it.

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