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Understanding Your Audience
Communication is the means of conveying information and your perspective to others through spoken or written words. It is critical to communicate well with your audience to successfully connect with them. Further, in order to communicate well, you need to understand your audience first, which involves getting to know their unique perspective and expectations. For instance, if you exchange any ideas with your audience, you must use similar frame of references that makes sense to them. In case your references and/or ideas do not coincide, then your audience is more likely to feel disinterested in what you have to say or offer to them. On the other hand, if you know what your audience wants, you will be able to come up with better ways to put the right context in your words and ideas to communicate effectively.
Choosing the right context is of utmost importance because it decides how well your audience perceives your message. If the context, that is, your chosen stimulus, frame of reference and interpretation of conclusion matches that of your audience, they will remember it. If not, your message is likely to be ignored.
How to know your audience?
Knowing your audience requires time and attention. There is a simple exercise that can help you evaluate whether you know your audience or you need to do more research.
Ask yourselves the following questions and see how many of these can you answer:
- Do you know the size of your audience?
- Do you know the demographic traits of your audience?
- Do you know the specific ideas that your audience cares about?
Once you have answered these questions, figure out the following questions to form a better communication channel:
- Is your audience familiar with the topic? If yes, to what extent?
- Does the audience have access to other sources? If yes, to what extent?
- Do you have any new information to add to the topic and is that relevant to the audience?
- How much time do you have to present your report?
- If it is a written report, what is the maximum limit for space? Are you allowed to add images and/or graphics to make it more presentable?
Lastly, make use of the iceberg model, that is, your presentation must refer to your entire audience. Every single person in your audience, whether for a live presentation or a written report, is only the tip of the iceberg. In order to target the iceberg as a whole, you must consider the diversity of your audience and captivate their attention by adapting intercultural communication. This means you need to phrase your sentences in a way that it relates to all your target readers or listeners, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, race, or place of residence. So, know your audience first so that you can give your research the right direction and can communicate with them effectively.
Demographic traits mean the traits collectively shared by a certain audience. These traits define every person as a unique individual but are also shared by a larger group. For example, age. All the people who are 30 years of age are unique in their own ways but are not the only people of that age. Other examples are gender, employment type, hobbies or interests, education level, career goals, travel goals, academic goals, etc. Every person who falls in a specific demographic trait will associate to one certain type of message, which can be related to their goals, needs, interests or desires.
To summarize, demographic traits can help you reach out to a certain group of people in your audience better by adjusting your message according to their expectations.
Distinct Intelligence and Learning Styles
Intelligence. The theory of multiple intelligences was given by Howard Gardner. He states that intelligence can be broadly categorized into three types:
- Interpersonal Intelligence: It refers to a person’s flair to bond with other people and maintain those relationships.
- Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence: It refers to the degree of control a person has on his/her own body for proper physical coordination.
- Logico-mathematical intelligence: It refers to a person’s flair for recognizing relationships in numeric characters and the ability to calculate and reason with logic.
Learning Styles. There are several different types of learning styles, such as:
- Musical: In this learning style, a person learns through music by identifying different tonal patterns, pitch and the rhythm.
- Spatial: In this style, a person is very imaginative and usually thinks in three-dimensional mental imagery. He or she may create figures in space and even devise colors.
- Linguistic: In this style, a person learns through language. He or she recognizes different verbal and written cues to memorize things.
The theory of learning styles suggests that people tend to identify with a particular message better if it is introduced to them in a manner that matches their sharpest intelligence type.
Role of Interpersonal Intelligence in Communication
Interpersonal intelligence is the basis of social interaction. It is critical for the ability to read other people’s verbal and non-verbal cues, understand their context and connect with them. In case, someone lacks in interpersonal intelligence, they can improve it by learning more about human behavior, needs and desires, and practicing in different interpersonal settings repeatedly.
Recognizing Human Needs
To make effective communication is to meet the listener’s basic needs. The reasons to engage in dialogue are:
- Gain information: Information is the reason behind daily communication. It may lead to a better grasping of things through observation or disclosure on consent.
- Understand communication contexts: Understanding of the context in which we communicate is also required. Whether the conversation is personal or impersonal, we need to understand better.
- Understanding our identity: Through conversations, we make our personalities and build on them. We can perceive our roles and relationships with others.
- Meet our needs: Through communication, we meet our requirements.
Theory of Social Penetration
Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor have formed the social penetration theory. It describes how we shift from superficial talk to informal talk to further reveal more about ourselves. We attempt to understand and learn about others, thereby, achieving a better sense of understanding for ourselves. With a better learning of others and more information, we can predict how they may behave under certain circumstances, what they value or what they may feel in certain situations.
The “onion model” shows us how we begin on a superficial level but peeling away the layers, we learn about the other person that comprises both depth and breadth.
Through understanding their past experiences (depth), we gain insight into how they perceive a particular situation, and thus, we come to know about the way a person sees a situation (breadth).
Information is more private as we move from impersonal talk to more intimate conversations.
Trust and confidence are built on as the layers are removed.
An “Iceberg model” poses as a valid example of how little we perceive of people in their first impressions and assumptions in general.
In order to connect and communicate effectively with different people, it is crucial to recognize and convey your understanding of their unique needs and objectives. For example, only those business products and/or services are usually successful in the marketplace, which appeal to their customers’ immediate needs. Another example is that of human resources in corporate world; employees generally take interest in activities that meet their needs or benefit them in some way.
Abraham Harold Maslow presented a model of hierarchy of needs in terms of priority, which is as follows:
- Physiological Needs– These are the basic needs that a person needs to survive, such as food, water, air, etc.
- Security-Safety Needs: These are the things one needs to feel safe and protected, such as home. These needs also make a person feel more secure about his or her access to basic physiological needs.
- Social Needs: These are the things one needs to feel socially accepted and connected, such as love, friendships and professional relationships. Humans are by nature social beings, and if these needs are met, people feel more satisfied with their lives in general.
- Ego or Esteem Needs: These are the emotional needs, like one wants to feel appreciated, wanted and listened to. These needs help a person achieve his or her sense of belonging.
- Self-Actualization: This is the innate need to achieve excellence to prove value and worth. It helps a person feel in control of their environment, and more influential and motivated towards their work.
It is important to realize that all needs from this hierarchy are rarely met by one person, event, work or context. One needs to expand his or her horizon of interaction with others to meet all needs. In this reference, Maslow also proposed sixth and seventh levels of hierarchy beyond self-actualization.
The sixth level is a person’s intrinsic need to know more. It is the urge to learn, grow, have new experiences, and explore our surroundings. When these needs are met, an individual begins to extend his/her sense of self beyond his or her instantaneous experiences and starts noticing things that he or she may have not considered important previously or ignored due to various reasons. This extension of self brings a person to the seventh level of hierarchy of needs, which refers to a person’s drive to appreciate and value beauty in his/her relationships, work and surroundings. These are called interpersonal needs that one needs to feel loved, in control and have a sense of belonging.
Every individual re-analyzes his or her survival strategies and what he or she considers important as they progress through these hierarchy levels.
The theory of interpersonal needs is, however, individualistic and is not accepted by many cultures where more focus is put on society as a whole rather than on individuals. Recognizing this gap, William Schutz suggested another version of interpersonal needs. He recognized Maslow’s theory to be true but proposed that the hierarchy of needs is not individualistic but universal. For example, all humans crave for love, appreciation, acceptance, a sense of belonging etc. However, the level of expectation to meet those needs may differ from person to person.
He also stated that there are three type of individuals based on their expectation level to meet these needs:
- Overpersonals: These are the individuals who crave high levels of attention and assurance, and thus interact excessively with others.
- Underpersonals: These are the individuals who do not crave interaction as much.
- Personal individuals: These are the individuals that find a middle ground for balanced interaction.
Schultz also said that all humans also desire a sense of control and influence on their environment but the extent of their needs may differ in context and as per their individual sense of security. Using this frame of reference, he further categorized individuals in three categories as:
- Autocrats: These individuals are self-directed and need a very high level of control over their situation. Autocrats make great leaders.
- Abdicrats: These individuals usually shirk from responsibility and look upon others to take control of things or situations.
- Democrats: These individuals try to maintain a balance between autocrats and abdicrats, and try to hold effective communication between both groups.
While Maslow and Schultz proposed alternate versions of interpersonal needs, they both addressed the same underlying objective, that is, our need to communicate. It does not matter how a person identifies with these interpersonal needs, the end goal is to communicate to meet those needs in personal as well as social settings.
Communication and Psychological Stroking
All individuals communicate in order to connect to others. It helps us build confidence in each other and feel psychologically satisfied as a social being. The basic purpose of all communication is to exchange information, convince, influence, motivate and entertain each other. For example, some people like to brag about their achievements to gain social approval. Similarly, a group of people may engage in gossip to build trust and make bonds with each other.
Every form of communication provides a certain positive or negative psychological stroke to the involved individuals, which in turn helps them identify their feelings towards themselves and others. For example, have you ever felt a change in mood after conversing with someone? The part of the conversation that affected your mood is the psychological stroke.
All individuals continually learn more about themselves and others as their relationships grow. For example, Johari window helps us identify what we know about ourselves and our peers by recognizing certain aspects of our own or others’ personality. The more a person knows about another person means they share a good bond of trust and exchange plenty information to and fro. This holds true for both personal and professional relationships.
The deeper the trust, the more conciliation will be there in the open arena of the Johari window (the first quadrant where what one knows about himself or herself matches with what others know about that individual). This concept applies to interpersonal as well as group relations; there will be better communication patterns in relations where trust and candidness are higher.
To achieve such high levels of openness, organization managers usually conduct cross-functional and team-building activities. The after results for Johari window are usually better post such activities.
Contrasting Management Styles
There are two prevalent views for leading good management:
- Traditional View: The traditional view suggests that employees are usually concerned with lower grade needs like employment status and salary. So, in order to manage them well, strong control is required where motivation for doing better job can be solely provided through external incentives like bonuses rather than focusing on the employee as an individual.
- Progressive View: The progressive view suggests that a good management style is based on fair balance between control and individual freedom. According to this view, less focus is given to external motivational factors and instead, productivity is increased by nurturing the employee’s higher-grade psychological needs.
There are also different theories for leader-subordinate leadership as follows:
- Direct Behavior Theory: As per this theory, a good leader must give direct yet detailed orders with an urge to follow the instructions properly and watch the progress of his subordinates closely.
- Supportive Behavior Theory: This theory suggests that a good leader must be a good listener, open to his or her subordinates’ views, recognize their needs and expectations, and encourage them to achieve their full potential.
- Total Quality Management: The concept of total quality management is loosely based on the supportive behavior theory where the role of employee is considered of crucial importance in an organizational setting. As per this concept, all employees must be involved in the decision-making process as per their caliber and closeness to the problem. For example, any decisions related to creating strategies for selling a product must involve employees from the sales team. Such involvement leads to employee empowerment, which allows the employees to feel satisfied about their job. It also motivates the employees internally to perform better instead of working solely for any external incentive. The total quality management style works because it fulfills the basic need for which we communicate, that is to build relationship with others.