Talking Vs. Communicating

“Sometimes talking is communicating. Sometimes it’s just noise.”

Blah, Blah, Blah…

Do you ever wonder how other people perceive you and the messages you send? At home, at work and socially? And I don’t mean in some weird, insecure, paranoid “what do they all think of me” kind of way either. No, I mean from a communication, connection and interaction perspective, are the people in your world ‘getting’ what you think you’re giving them? If you think you’re saying ‘A’ but people are actually hearing ‘B, C and D’ (as is often the case), then you have yourself something of a communication issue.

Some people talk well but communicate (and connect) poorly. So too, some effective communicators are not necessarily the best ‘talkers’ (keeping in mind that the vast majority of communication is non-verbal). Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how ‘right’ or ‘relevant’ our message might be, if it’s not meaningful and understandable to our audience then we won’t create meaningful connection and we won’t produce the desired outcome. Ever.

Two Realities

Sometimes, our version of constructive feedback is their version of nasty criticism. Sometimes, our simple explanation is their confusing, mind-bending mumbo-jumbo; like when Johnnie starts speaking ‘computer’ at me. Sometimes, our empowering motivational speech will be a trigger for their stress response. Sometimes, our funny story will be their self-indulgent waste of five minutes. Ouch! And sometimes, our confidence will be interpreted as arrogance.

That’s because they don’t speak ‘you’. They speak ‘them’.

Interestingly, while communication is probably the single-most important interpersonal skill, it’s often the one thing that we don’t consciously or methodically develop. Which is why we keep making the same mistakes. Often, with the same people about the same issues.


It’s my experience that effective communication is primarily about awareness, observation, perception, adaptability (in that moment) and understanding our audience. That is, knowing who we’re talking with and tailoring our message accordingly. It’s about understanding their language. And, when possible, knowing a little (or a lot) about their story.

Do I Need to Agree with Them?

Having said that, keep in mind that understanding someone or connecting with them doesn’t (necessarily) mean agreeing with them, aligning with them or even liking them (in some cases).

No, it just means understanding them.

Effective (verbal) communication has a little to do with what we’re saying and a lot to do with how we say it. A bunch of five year-olds taught me that today. :)

If you liked this article, subscribe to my blog and receive my FREE eBook. Click here: I want a FREE eBook. If you’re interested in having me work with your organisation you can contact me here.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

How did you get on with the five year-olds?


Craig March 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Awesome. Had a ball. Gonna write a post (with pics) next week. :)


Trish B March 2, 2012 at 7:06 am

Excellent Craig. I’ll be very interested to hear how you went, though I’m not surprised it was great!
Thanks for the reminder about stepping (leaping?) outside our comfort zones.


Fi March 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Funny that 5 year olds taught you that.

I often think when people communicate with me, although I am just 40ish and ‘peaking’ in happiness, i wish the people I meet each and evey day, were 5 ish again in their body laguage and communication and listening skills.


Not sure most of us can tick all the boxes – if only we were 5 gain just for a day……………

• Follows simple instructions directed specifically to you
• Follows general instructions given
• Beginning to respond to general instructions given, but may
still need a verbal prompt to listen
• Follows instructions when working on other tasks
• Is easily distracted, so can only listen and attend to a short, simple
or repetitive story
• Listens and attends with interest to longer, more complicated stories

Funny most can’t even pass these milestones, as our ego’s get in the way……

Great work Harp’s – you little kid !!!
In a big boys body ;-)


Craig March 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Very Big Boy. :)


Pet March 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm

EGO…much ;-p
hee hee


Damo March 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Craig, I really believe that whilst communication is a two-way process, the person trying to impart a message has a greater responsibility for making sure the other person understands their intended message. So if we’ve all got our own frequency, then we need to tune to the other person’s frequency rather than just rattle off on our own. Sounds like that’s what the 5 year olds taught you today – eh?
One of the other blockages that I’ve noticed is that we often pre-judge a person and what they say is coloured by our pre-conceived ideas. I saw this described as “what you ARE speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say”. I think this also talks about phoneys – people whose words don’t match their deeds.


Suu March 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm

You put me in a room with my 15 year old grandson and we can talk for hours and make more headway with anything from cooking to what’s the latest thing on You Tube than I can do with my 39 year old son.
I’d love to be able to communicate how and what I feel but mostly it turns into me being the active listener when it comes to friends and family and that’s ok because I’ll always have a grandchild to talk with :)


Craig March 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

You and I are on the same page Brother Damo… :)


Fi March 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Ditto Boys ;-)


Ben March 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Interesting article, however, how does one learn effective communication technics and styles to communication as best as possible?


Mick March 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm

I have been following you for almost 3 years now and i love the mobile version of this website!!! First time I have tried it :)


Trish B March 2, 2012 at 7:17 am

Interesting thoughts from everyone.
I find the hardest part of effective communication is not letting my thoughts run on to other things when someone is talking to me. I remember some guru saying (and I’m just guessing what the statistics were!)that we can only talk at 200 words a minute but we can think at 800 words a minute. What this means is that when someone is saying something, we have plenty of mental space left over to plan the rest of our day, make shopping lists etc, while still following the narrative.
I have tried to just concentrate on what the person is saying without drifting off, and it’s hard!
Perhaps your five year-olds haven’t learnt to mentally multi-task yet: lucky them.


Kathryn March 2, 2012 at 8:55 am

Hi Craig,

Really looking forward to hearing about your time with the 5 year olds. I wonder…did you sing? :-)

Your posting here was rather timely, as per usual. Working with over 200 newborns – 7 year olds and their parents over any given week, has helped very much with learning to listen and communicate far better than ever.

Currently I’m doing a bit of research into the art of listening, (with special reference to music) in conjunction with communicating this with parents. This was my conclusion in an e-news to families:
“The way I see it is if one can sing, dance and play, cohesively and in harmony as a part of everyday life within their family and other families among families, they can talk, be fit and healthy, listen, appreciate, guide and support each other so that the sound continues in harmony. If we do not listen to one another, then how can we communicate and function in harmony? Maybe this is the reason why developing strong listening skills is so important – to help us communicate!”


Sandy Fishwick March 2, 2012 at 9:25 am

When I was in my early twenties my boyfriend at the time said “Do you know what any of your friends thinks, feel, do you know anything about them. It was a polite way of saying you do most of the talking, how about finding out what other people think. I have since learnt to listen with both ears and my heart as well. I still have the gift of verbosity though.


Maylene March 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Great to hear that you went well with the 5 year olds. They can teach us a lot can’t they. Can’t wait to read about your experience with them.


Beach bear March 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Hey Craig so glad you had a ball with the kids i knew you would. They just highlight everything you are saying in this post today dont they. I love seeing my 3yr old nephew he cant understand lots of what i am ‘saying’ in terms of the words but geez does he understand FULLY what i’m saying with my body language! The other day he was so excited to show me that he was now wearing real underpants and no more nappy…..he couldnt say many words but he went and got his new underpants from his drawer and proudly displayed them to me. I was so excited and animated my hands were going up in the air and i was jumping about with excitement for him and he FULLY understood what a big achievement it was for him. I didnt need to ‘say’ any words.

Kids are great at texhing us things. They sit back and watch peoples behaviours and they know more about a peron than what a lot of loud mouthed ignorant grown ups do. I’ve seen this on a number of occasions….sometimes in ugly domestic situations where the grown ups dont think the kids know whats going on.

Anyhow communication is a fascinating subject and i really love teaching this subject to managers and CEOs. I have been in a position where communication skills were a matter of life and death and its absolutely fascinating to explore human behaviour in this way.

Thanks heaps Craig :)


Glitz March 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm

And one of the things I have found over the years is that it is sometimes necessary to actually check that all parties in a conversation have the same understanding as to the meaning of some of the words being used!!

I have defused many tricky situations by asking each person involved “What is it that you understand by ******?” Sometimes hugely surprising.


Anonymous March 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

….. Just because someone talks loudly and clearly doesn’t mean that they are a good communicator.

….. Just because someone pushes their opinions onto others, that also doesn’t mean they are a good communicator.

Good communication requires BOTH talking and listening.


Kate,Central Coast March 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Your body speaks.. Good communication is about your audience understanding.

Communication in person is 70% body, in writing lyes heavily in tone, sentance structure and well ensuring you reach your audience… Could go on but at the end of the day when you hear or read a good communicator you know it – as you understand.


NIkki March 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Why is this not like Facebook. I really want to delete my earlier comment now. It doesn’t sound very nice. If you can take it off for me that would be nice.


Anonymous March 2, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Nikki. Good point. I got stuck the same way the other day.

Craig, it would be good if there was a button where we can delete our own comments after they have been published? (yeah, I know, maybe we should think before we speak / type)……


Nikki March 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Thanks Anonymous and thanks Craig for removing it. Bit worried about how I voice/word my opinions now….I’m sure I’ll eventually get over it.


Ryan March 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Totally agree with you Craig on this topic. Communication is what the listener does.


himej_les March 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

I think that your comments in topic ‘Talking versus communicating’, Craig, really highlights your learning opportunity of working with children. I recall working with some preschoolers immediately after having had a class of vibrant year sixers. I was obviously carrying over my ‘control the hordes’ look on my face when entering the preschool class, asked the littlies to get out their books and immediately half the class burst into tears!! All was saved, but a great learning experience for me!!


Rissie March 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks Craig! You have a way of putting things in such an applicable and no nonsense manner. I love it.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: