• Nicola Ellwood

The meaning of your communication is the response it gets.

When I first started learning about communication and the psychology of how we communicate and understand, it scared the life out of me....


It is not easy to be understood. Fact.


In truth, we have a minute chance of being understood, in the way that we actually mean.



If you’re a leader or manager, you may think you are clearly communicating important information, but NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) teaches us that true meaning of your communication actually lies in how it is received and understood by the receiver. And therefore the quality and meaning of your communication can be assessed by the response it gets.


If you get a different response to what you were expecting, then the communication didn’t land as you intended.


Communicating, and the person understanding it in the way you intend is REALLY tricky. And it is a skill set.

These are some truths about communication:

  • We communicate what we think about.

  • We are only conscious of a small percentage of what we think about.

  • Of that percentage, we only put some of that into language (saying it in our head to ourselves first).

  • Of that, we only choose to articulate a few of those words.

  • We filter our thoughts - saying only a teeny tiny amount of what we actually think. In other words - we only articulate a small amount of what is rolling around in our head.

And then there’s the receiver and how they receive your communication.

When they are listening to you they are doing the following:

  • Filtering what you are saying through their own beliefs and values.

  • Filtering through their own meaning of the words you are using, changing the meaning of your words to their meaning.

  • Taking in only a percentage in because they’re distracted by something (perhaps their own opinion).

  • Or perhaps the distraction is you. Perhaps they have switched off because it's you talking.

Communication is not easy, and it is a skill.

But here is the gift of it.


· If we realise that being understood is tricky, we just need to dial up our investment in checking if the message is as we intended. And it’s easy to spot – the person reacts in a way to what you ideally wanted or were expecting. (We all have had that right? - where someone reacts in a way that we weren’t expecting to something we said?)

The responsibility for good communication sits with the sender. So, imagine being a leader in a team - a context where communication and common understanding is essential. Here’s what great communicators do:

  • They spend their time ensuring and exploring how their communication is understood by the receiver.

  • They have two-way conversations utilising 'empathic' listening (Which is a level more skilful and active listening).

  • They spend time on this. knowing that getting it right first time will save time down the road.

  • They are inquisitive and curious, focussed on the receiver, checking their perception of things

  • They embrace questions - questions mean they have an opportunity to explore understanding and common meaning in the other person.

  • They demonstrate they understand by playing back what the person has said.

  • As a result their people feel listened to, understood and cared for, and relationships are strong.

Some managers and leaders may say "well I can’t help if they misenterpreted what I meant.”

Really? Who’s responsibility is it? Your employee's?

NLP teaches us communication excellence. It also teaches us that communication is not easy. It requires a focus outside of ourselves and what we are trying to say. A focus on the receiver and how what we are saying is being received.

Check others responses to assess the quality of yours. If their response feels good and right – great, carry on.

We all can communicate unproductively at times so, if not, spend time exploring further their understanding, try things a different way and take care to bridge the gap between what you've said and their interpretation.

Great communicators check that the meaning of their communication is what is understood, and that it gets the response they might expect.




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