Conflicts and Communication - Senses in Action

Jul 23 • Ilona Nurmela • Comments: 3
Recently, I read somewhere that 10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion and 90% are due to wrong tone of voice. Basically, what conflicts boil down to is miscommunication. People live and travel globally and use techy means like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, emails and text messaging to do business. If most of the communication between business partners is electronic and not in person - how easy is it to misunderstand or not hear what the other person said or meant? Has the evolution of communication technology led to increased corporate conflicts?

From the statistics of the Supreme Court in Estonia, year-on-year the number of cases brought to court has been growing for the past 15 years. Whether us becoming a more litigious society is even remotely related to spread of technological solutions and increased speedy communication, might warrant a study, but at the moment this is just a hypothesis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we go back to the dark ages to lessen conflicts. What I am suggesting is that communication in person helps to lessen failures to listen and understand. Communication in person won’t eliminate these failures, if we don’t talk about our real needs and wants, but more about that later and not today.

Suppose you are a more visual person, i.e. your intake of information is “see” rather than “hear”, “touch”, “smell” or “taste”. If you are on the phone and cannot see who you are speaking to, you might not register changes in tone of voice. For you, the Skype video chat is the absolute minimum if you want to avoid conflicts.

Suppose you are a more audio person, i.e. your intake of information is “hear” rather than “see”, “touch”, “smell” or “taste”. Chances are, you pick up change of tone even from emails and tend to worry when written words or emails are abrupt, so you might need to talk to your colleague over the phone to make sure they were just pressed for time and not upset with you.

If your predominant sense is touch (tactile and kinesthetic movement), you might find a lot of information not available to you, if people from certain cultures consider it impolite to touch, e.g. no hand shakes or no hand shakes with women. Since you are more body-conscious, then visual information rather than pure audio is better for you.

Smell and taste are pretty intimate in terms of how you predominantly gather information and I hope you are in the business where those senses are highly valued - sommeliers, wine and whisky makers - so you can immediately spot when something has gone wrong. These senses being also very physical, being there and smelling and tasting things and people cannot probably be substituted with a phone call or a chat. Not until calls and chats become tactile - I am praying for someone to develop a tactile hologram or virtual version of client-site visits, that would save us all so much in air travel&cost&carbon emissions.

Few of us are pure types, most are a mix, still there is a predominant preference of 1-2 senses and in my experience, those who have a good rounded balance of all 5 still prefer to meet in person if they can. So, unless you are a very distinctly audio-preferential person, communication in person is always preferable to lessen if not completely avoid misunderstandings. How costly for Board members of multinational companies and how inconvenient for those that like to live online. It’s a choice HOW you communicate and with WHOM - shall FB friends stay online friends and you grace only your nearest and dearest and important people with your presence? Fair enough. Just remember that when you have a conflict and meeting with someone who did you wrong is the least that you want to do, doing the counter-intuitive thing and meeting in person might actually save you time and money in resolving the conflict.

Do you know which preference - audio, visual, other or mixed you have?

If you want to find out, see a shorthand of tips here and there is also an online free test that will take about 15 minutes to complete:

Now think about the person that you are having the most trouble with communicating. What could their preference be? Could your adapting to their preference increase the success of your communication? Think about it.

I’ll get back to you on the 90% of wrong tone of voice next week.

Comments: 3

Ilona, this is so true! It is so great to know that personal communication is the real magic key to sucsessful business and personal realtionships! It is a kind of revalation!
Jul 25  •  Marussia
Thanks, Marussia! There will be a followup post about how to implement the 5 love languages in personal and professional relationships as well and not just with your nearest and dearest.
Aug 10  •  Ilona
It is 100% true the communication creates conflicts as well as decrease or eliminate the conflicts. On the phone or any other media would not support to decrease the conflict as the direct encountering do. In direct encountering the expression would be excellent
Feb 13  •  Savariar Arockiam

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