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Learning Objectives

By the end of this session you should have learnt about:

  • What your predominant communication styles are, and their characteristics
  • How to adapt to the communication styles of others
  • Non-verbal communication issues and conflicts
  • Communication issues and enablers
  • Communication intention vs perception
  • Optimising giving and receiving feedback

George Bernard Shaw

‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place’

George Bernard Shaw was a political activist and playright.

He is best known for writing the movie screenplay of ‘My Fair Lady’ (Nobel Prize in Literature 1925). 

This quote is quite well known, and demonstrates just how often miscommunication occurs. It also alludes to another big problem with communication – assumptions – which will be discussed later.

Your Communication Styles

Knowing your own, and others’, communication styles is extremely important to enable effective communication.

The document below contains some useful information for you to keep, and is your handout for this course. You will need to download the document and save it to your computer for the next exercise.

Self-assessment guide – Communication handout

Self-Assessment Exercise:

In the handout is a communication self-assessment guide, to determine your own style. The document in the link is interactive, so you can enter your responses into the document, and save it to your computer.

Communication Styles Explained

Source: Leadership Victoria

1. Action (A) – ‘Directors’

  • No time for small talk or socialising
  • Driven, competitive and decisive
  • Talk about actions
  • Set goals and focus on doing, not listening
  • Like to be in charge and make tough decisions
  • Take risks
  • Can appear insensitive or intimidating

Skills: Highly productive, energetic, enthusiastic, good at making decisions

May come across as: Impatient, insensitive, miss details


2. Process (PR) – ‘Analysers’, ‘Thinkers’

  • Like to solve problems
  • Exacting sense of detail
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Make lists
  • Concentrate on doing the job right
  • Consider all angles
  • Consider people’s needs and feelings

Skills: Organise information well, less prone to mistakes

May come across as: Picky, aloof, critical

3. People (PE) – ‘Harmonisers’

  • Steady and dependable
  • Listen to other people’s problems
  • Attuned to other people’s feelings
  • Focused on the group’s well-being
  • Quiet team players
  • Avoid conflict and have trouble saying ‘no’

Skills: Perceptive, friendly, team players

May come across as: Unassertive, emotional, slow

4. Idea (I) – ‘Relators’, ‘Expressors’

  • Have lots of thoughts and ideas
  • Think aloud
  • Creative, like to find new ways to do things
  • Can be disorganised and lack follow-through
  • Lack a long attention span for that which doesn’t involve or interest them
  • Dynamic, dramatic, exciting, engaging and entertaining

Skills: Visionary, Creative, See big picture

May come across as: Difficult to understand, unrealistic, unproductive

No one communication style is better than another. Your BLEND of styles determines how you communicate. In certain situations, it may be advantageous to use one particular style over the others.

Adapting to Other Communication Styles

Source: Leadership Victoria

  • Don’t assume that others should change to fit to your style or that others communicate as you do. Assumptions cause a lot of problems when communicating. It is your responsibility to ensure any message you convey is understood by recipients.
  • One-on-one: what is the other person’s predominant communication style? Determine this for yourself, and adapt your approach to suit. Examples of this are in the next section.
  • In a room, draw out the quieter people– ask for their input or work in small groups where they may feel more comfortable to contribute to conversations.
  • You should always try to determine predominant communication styles of ALL team members. This will help anticipate and prevent any communication issues from occurring.
Communicating with A ‘Director’
  • Brevity is key, talk in bullet points
  • Focus on results first
  • Emphasise practicality of idea
  • Make direct eye contact and be confident
  • Use visual Aids
  • Walk and talk
Communicating with an ‘Analyser’/’Thinker’
  • Focus on facts and data
  • Provide proof and methodology to back up proposal
  • Keep discussion/proposal in logical order 
  • Provide written documentation
  • Do not rush
Communicating with a ‘Harmoniser’
  • Allow for personal talk, build rapport
  • Connect results to relationships and people 
  • Seek their opinions and ideas
  • Discuss past results and successes
  • Ensure they feel comfortable to disagree 
Communicating with an ‘Expressor’
  • Allow time for brainstorming
  • Talk about big picture and what idea could mean
  • Stress uniqueness of an idea or topic
  • Follow up meeting with brief to‐do list
  • Bring them back on topic if they wander off too far

Self-directed activity 2

Review your communication self-assessment. You will probably have one or two styles that are predominant.

Look at the style that you received the lowest score for (pick just one if you have two equal lowest).

How would you alter your communication style to communicate effectively with someone whose predominant communication style is this style?

What strategies would you employ?

How do you need to change your thinking?

Non-verbal Communication


  • Facial expressions

  • Eye contact

  • Posture

  • Gestures & touch

  • Locomotion or movement

  • Proxemics

  • Voice characteristics

Negative Non-Verbal Signals

Click on each non-verbal signal listed for more information.

1. Not making eye contact or staring

This can be cultural – some may think you may be untrustworthy, nervous or lacking in self-assurance if you don’t meet their eyes; others may think not making eye contact is respectful.  It’s best to alternate between looking at the person you are talking to for a few seconds, looking away and back again. It is enough to make face contact – it doesn’t have to be the eyes. But don’t look down, up or past them.

2. Crossing your arms

Crossed arms can be perceived as being closed to ideas, defensive or disinterested. In some cultures though, you can come across as passive or submissive. Have your arms loosely by your side.

3. Touching your nose or face

This can be perceived as self-consciousness or anxiety, or lying or hiding something. Consciously try to stop it.

4. Poor posture

If posture is incorrect, people can be perceived to be lazy (hunched over), scared (sitting on the edge of your seat), arrogant (stretched out too much), aggressive (leaning too far forward) or uncomfortable (sitting up too straight). Ideally you should sit with your bottom at the back of the chair, and lean forward slightly with your arms on the arms of your chair or loosely in your lap.

5. Fidgeting

Fidgeting suggests impatience or boredom. It is difficult if you have been sitting for a long time not to do so, even if you are engaged with the discussion. Get friends to warn you if you do fidget, and what you do, so you can consciously work to overcome it.

6. Poor handshake

Weak or painfully hard grip handshake convey negative impressions of a weak or aggressive personality.

7. Proxemics

Personal space. Don’t invade this, nor stand too far away. Be mindful of culture and context.

8. Voice

It’s not what you say but how you say it. Intonation is important – be warm and friendly, be audible, and your pitch should be low rather than high. High pitch can be seen as argumentative or emotional – a particular problem when women are communicating with men. Lower tones also sound calmer and more self-assured.

When face to face a lot of what is perceived about what is said depends on voice tone. When on the phone this can increase to up to 90%!

Non-verbal Communication Conflicts

When non verbal signals don’t match with what is spoken, this is termed a conflict. This can give the recipient the impression that the communicator is untrustworthy. Conflicting non-verbal signals may be used as humour or sarcasm, but that also assumes the recipient understands that this is the case.

Self-directed activity 3

Take this sentence and change the meaning by using changes in your voice (a from of non-verbal communication):


‘We are not doing a test today.’


How many different meanings can be made changing your voice? and what are they?

(Solution at the bottom of the page)

Communication Issues & Enablers

Click on each topic for detailed information.


Assumptions are one of the biggest challenges to effective communication. Some of the most common assumptions we make are:

  1. That the recipient has listened to what we have said. This is the most common assumption relating to communication. Hearing is not listening! Make sure people have taken on board what you say.
  2. That the recipient has understood what we have said. A person may require a certain level of knowledge of a topic to understand what is said to them. This is particularly the case in health care, when patients or clients may not be health literate, so using health jargon – especially acronyms – when speaking to them may lead to misunderstandings or just plain confusion. It may also occur when you are communicating with people whose second language is English – they may spend time translating your words into their native tongue. The moral of the story – use simple words and concepts. People shouldn’t need a dictionary or textbook to talk to you.
  3. That we have been clear in what we communicated. Use a logical order. If you have the habit of rambling or going off on tangents, write a list – and stick to it. Ensure the recipient has received what you intended by asking them to repeat it back to you in their own words.
  4. That the recipient’s interpretation of what we have communicated is the same. What may be clear, sensible and logical to you, may not be to someone else. Explain your reasoning and why you thought that way.
  5. That the recipient thinks the same way that you do. Remember the different communication styles. They also relate to ways of thinking. Use the tips for communicating with the different styles, and present what you want to communicate in various ways so that all communicators understand you. This is also particularly relevant to different generations. Each generation may be comfortable with a different communication medium. If you want to communicate with multiple generations effectively, employ multiple different ways of communicating a message that are appropriate to the message content – face to face, by email, printed email, written (eg handover diaries, notes) digital meetings, texting, social media etc.
  6. That the recipient agrees with what was communicated. Not everyone will dispute what they don’t agree with!
  7. That the recipients have the same values as you do. Many people don’t understand that your values can impact how you interpret something that is communicated to you. To use an extreme example, a family of thieves won’t think stealing is wrong!
  8. Lastly, we often assume that other people do things the same way as we do. To use a travelling example, there may be 10 different ways to get from A to B, but none of them are wrong (unless you are doing something illegal of course!)

Factors which enable better communication:

1. Valuing communication.

This doesn’t mean just liking to talk and have a good chat. Sometimes the people who talk the most listen the least. It means valuing being able to communicate effectively with all people – not just your mates.

2. Willingness to improve communication skills.

No-one who thinks they are brilliant at communicating will ever improve their skills. We can all improve our communication skills, as we all have moments when it breaks down at some stage – especially during stressful times.

3. Good attitudes.

It might sound simple and obvious, but if you are angry, frustrated, and unwilling to listen, communication takes a back seat. Being positive, open and willing to communicate, even when things don’t seem to be going your way means that any issues or other important information still gets conveyed appropriately.

4. Involvement in decision making.

Involving people in the process of making decisions invests them in the process, meaning they are more open to the changes caused by the decision, investing them in the process and ensuring they are part of the communication.

5. Informed participants.

Making sure people understand why something is happening, by communicating this clearly with them, makes people much more likely to buy into the process, and again become part of any communication surrounding it. Nothing makes people more mad than not knowing why – and anger is definitely a barrier to communicating effectively.

6. Shared belief system.

People who have a lot in common tend to communicate better – this includes shared beliefs, which, especially when it comes to religious beliefs, can be a big part of people’s lives.

7. Ability to understand the basic concept conveyed.

As discussed in the section on ‘assumptions’, if the person doesn’t understand what is being said to them, communication has not occurred effectively. Ensure you present information to recipients in a form you are sure they can understand – but don’t treat them like they are stupid! As Einsten said Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’.

8. Ability to develop common ground and understanding.

Be mutable when communicating with others. Be flexible. Adapt to who you are communicating with and see what is discussed from their perspective. These are skills which will be of benefit in all aspects of your life. The more you can understand others as people, the better you will communicate with them.

Source: Lawn et al 2013


Failure to Listen: Communication problems occur when people are distracted, interrupt and show disrespect to the speaker, are planning what to say next, have short attention spans, have difficulty hearing what is being communicated, and misunderstand the speaker.

Fix: Have rules for meetings and other communication formats, write notes instead of interrupting and to remember what you want to say, set an example (managers in particular) of good listening behaviour, repeat back to ensure understanding.

Knowledge/Inadequate Knowledge: Ineffective education, lack of understanding, knowledge hoarding.

Fix: YOU are responsible for increasing your knowledge, or if you are a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure you are aware of your staff’s knowledge base, and to provide training if required. ASK! Clarify!

Cliques, Groups and Friendships: Intentional or deliberate exclusion, some people won’t communicate well/at all unless comfortable in group or one on one.

Fix: Make others aware that exclusion is a form of bullying behaviour, and not tolerated, regardless of intent. Draw people out and ask for input directly or anonymously if required.

Gender bias: No gender is better than another! Discuss real issues. There can be issues with some people only relating to others of the same gender – this may be due to shyness, or it may be cultural (some cultures frown on an unmarried woman talking to a man).

Fix: Make it clear that gender bias is not tolerated if intended to divide. Cultural issues and shyness is difficult to breach sensitively without offending.

Attitude and Ego: Egos can get in the way of problem resolution. Inequity can cause conflict. A discussion that doesn’t go someone’s way can be confused with ‘losing’ an argument instead of co-operation.

Fix: Sometimes people need to agree to disagree. Promote giving in gracefully, and demonstrate it!

Type of Communication: Distance communication can lead to detachment, lack of interaction, delays, misunderstanding (especially if you can’t see faces). Poorly written communication can lead to confusion and offence (eg emails). Age can determine what communication type is preferred.

Fix: Try to have as many meetings face to face as possible, especially if you don’t know the other attendees well. Review emails before sending or phone if the topic is sensitive. Communicate information by multiple mediums to allow for generational preferences.

Lack of Feedback: Can be top down or bottom up – managers may not praise when due or reprimand when required, or not give any feedback at all. Staff may not be comfortable approaching managers with issues, so important information is not given to the people who can make change if required.

Fix: Managers MUST give constructive feedback, both positive and negative, and must be approachable. Staff should ensure it is not just ‘whinging’ but legitimate issues, and should feel comfortable discussing issues with their managers, or nothing will be achieved except gossiping. Take solutions to managers, not just problems.

Culture Differences (Including Generational): People with similar backgrounds and experiences or interests tend to ‘hang’ together, and sometimes don’t mix well with others. Different generations have different preferred methods to communicate.

Fix: Work on small group dynamics – mix them up, have assigned seats, brainstorm and ensure ALL contribute, even if have to ask people directly. Reframe messages to ensure understanding. Communicate messages via multiple mediums.

Source: bright hub project management


Video Conferencing

Video conferencing is an essential tool for staying connected, particularly in regional and rural areas. It also enables team members to work remotely, which has been extremely useful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some tips to enable better video conference meetings:

1. Mute yourself when not speaking

Most microphones can pick up minor background noises, like coughs, sneezes, or typing. These sounds can distract other video conferencing participants, and may even mean they cannot hear the speaker. Staying on mute will reduce this problem.

2. Be on time.

This may sound obvious, as this should be the case for any meeting, but everything is visible by video conference. When you walk in late, you may make noise and distract anyone who is speaking in the room, leading to confusion and stoppages.

3. Ensure your technology works correctly

Technology issues can lead to major delays. This is also why you the second point is important. Either be early to a meeting and ensure your technology is working and you know how to work it – or have someone on hand to fix it or show you how – or check everything in the days leading up to an important meeting. This will ensure all runs smoothly.

4. Use technology to fully engage remote participants.

Make your remote attendees feel like they are part of the conversation. Include them, and ask for their input. Interruptions when they are speaking and being talked over are big issues for remote participants in meetings.

Don’t have side conversations or make jokes that remote participants can’t hear. Exclusion is a big no-no.

5. Choose the proper software and hardware.

Most sites get the hardware right. Choose software that is easy to use and doesn’t need participants to undertake extensive training.

A good comparison of software you can use for video conferencing is available here.

6. Wear work-appropriate clothing.

It’s tempting to wear casual attire when attending a video conference from home. You don’t have to wear anything fancy, but choose something that would be appropriate face to face.

7. Frame the camera correctly.

You don’t want other participants to be looking up your nose or at the side of your face. Position the camera to show your body from the midsection up, and allows you to look at the camera from eye level.

8. Have the light right.

Poor quality lighting makes the picture grainy and unwatchable. Try not to mix natural lighting and office lighting as one or the other will be too bright.

9. Look into the camera.

A common mistake is looking at the video feed instead of the camera when speaking.It actually makes it appear as if you’re looking off screen and not paying attention.Practice this until you are comfortable.

10. Pay attention.

Don’t check your emails or work on other things while in a video conference. It looks rude, and very few people can multi-task effectively.

Source: Owl Labs


We’ve had phones for a long time. You’d think we’d have gotten to be great at phone etiquette. But it is a lot different chatting to your best friend to someone you have never met or barely know. And different generations will have different expectations.

Here’s Five Telephone Communication Skills Tips to help you out:

1. Adopt a positive tone

Projecting an enthusiastic, natural, and attentive tone while on the phone can help the other person feel comfortable during a conversation.

When you answer the phone, smile as you greet the person.  A smile can truly be heard through the telephone. 

Also, be aware of your vocal qualities throughout the call.  Don’t speak too fast, and control your voice pitch.  

2. Speak clearly (clear enunciation)

Use simple words and phrases.  Don’t use overly complex vocabulary or jargon. 

Avoid slang and filler words.  If you have a tendency to use filler words such as “um” or “like” practice taking a pause instead.

Chewing gum or eating during a conversation can also lead to mumbled speech so avoid both of these.

And again – don’t speak too fast! 

3. Be sincere

Say hello and be genuine. State your name and the company’s name, and offer to help from the outset. Give genuine answers and be positive.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and if you don’t have the information the other person needs to hand, tell them when you will get back to them with it.

4. Use their name

Once you have the other person’s name, use it – but do so correctly (correct pronunciation is essential). Clarify if necessary.

5. Finish the conversation in a positive manner.

Make sure the other person understands any information you have conveyed, or you have given them the assistance they need or may need. Then finish the call in a friendly way.

Source: Skills You Need



You’ve all had it happen. You’ve sent an email that has been completely misunderstood by someone, and they may even have been upset about it. So what can we do to reduce email misunderstandings and errors?

8 Tips for Effective Email Communication

1. Be clear and concise

  • Use bulleted points for more detailed emails where possible
  • Take your time writing an email to ensure the reader has a clear understanding of your message. 
  • Be brief. Most people will immediately read a short email. Send them a longer one and there is a risk it will not be read, or at least, not in a timely manner.

2. Read, re-read and read again before sending.

Get into the habit of rereading your entire message before sending it. Most of the time you will notice that you have missed words, used incorrect grammar, and worst of all – ‘words witch our spilled write butt knot used inn the write weigh. Note, that this last sentence runs through a spell checker perfectly.’ (The Telephone Doctor)

3. Copy back relevant points when replying to an earlier message.

Which of these messages has the greater chance for reader confusion?

“Sure, that’s fine.”


“Sure, that’s fine.”

You wrote: “Hi Sharon, Is it possible I could take two hours of TIL next Friday afternoon? I have a dental appointment.”

4. Use specific subject line descriptions.

An email may go back and forth to multiple people over multiple days, so it is important that people know just what is in the email trail.

Spam and anti-spam software can send your email thread to spam due to a poorly worded subject line. So ensure your subject line EXACTLY describes the content, but does not contain words or phrases that may be deemed inappropriate!

5. Realise that once your message is sent, it’s difficult to recall.

There is limited technology available to recall a message.

Always double-check the recipient line before sending any email, including the ‘Copy’ line. Sending to ‘ALL’ should be discouraged.

Never put in writing something that a reasonable person would consider to be inappropriate. Imagine that the person you are writing about could see your message. Stick to facts, not opinions, and be tactful.

6. Practice the 24-hour rule when you’re upset.

It’s never a good idea to send an email when you’re angry. 

If you compose an email in anger, wait a a day if possible before sending it. You will not be able to be objective when you are too close to the issue. Most of the time you will be glad you waited to send an inflammatory email and toned things down – this perspective can only come with additional time.

7. Avoid sh-cuts and abbr. in biz email msgs.

Use of abbreviations, especially those that are not universally understood (and no matter what you may think, they are not) is not advised in a workplace setting. What is alright with one person can be seen as inappropriate by another. Since a casual message could easily be forwarded to others, it’s best to maintain a high level of professionalism no matter who you’re writing to.

8. Don’t Forward Viral Messages.

If you are the recipient of an email message you think may be harmful, test it in this way: Copy and paste a few words from the message into Google along with the word “hoax”. If your search shows posts claiming the message is a fake, save everyone some time and pain by pressing ‘delete’. The same rule applies to jokes and pictures which would be seen as inappropriate by your employer or other staff.

Source: The Telephone Doctor


Aggressive Communication:

  • A mode of communication or behaviour where one expresses their feelings, needs, and rights without regard or respect for the needs, rights, and feelings of others
  • In the recipient: causes feelings of stress, victimisation, feeling bullied, and relationships suffer
  • In the aggressor: causes feelings of stress, affects personal relationships, and reduces achievement of personal goals

For best outcomes for all, it is better to be an assertive communicator. Assertive communicators express themselves effectively and stand up for their point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. Being assertive can also help boost self-esteem and earn others’ respect.

This video is old, but please watch the first 7 minutes of this Youtube video for some good examples of aggressive vs assertive communication:

Aggressive vs Assertive Communication

Example phrases:

Aggressive                                        Assertive

You never listen to me!             I don’t feel like you have listened to my point of view

You were wrong!                          I think you might have made an error

Avoiding ‘You’ statements and instead concentrating on what you think or the impact on yourself – the ‘I’ statements – makes people you are talking to less defensive when communicating. They are also more tactful statements!

Source: Very Well Mind



Giving Feedback

REMEMBER: feedback given in a respectful, constructive way is NOT bullying

  • Check your motives. Why are you doing it? Feedback is supposed to improve performance – this can’t be accomplished by being harsh, critical or offensive. Be fair and balanced.
  • Be timely. The closer to the event you address the issue, the better.
  • Make it regular. It is not a once-per-year or once-every-three-months event. Simple, informal feedback should be much more often than this.
  • Prepare your comments. Not to script the conversation, but to stay on track and stick to the issue/s
  • Be specific. Stick to the facts, state exactly what you mean. Avoid words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ because the person will get defensive. Discuss impact of the behaviour. Don’t get personal or seek to blame.
  • Criticise in private
  • Use ‘I’ statements – rather than ‘you’ statements. ‘You’ statements tend to make people defensive.
  • Limit your focus. A feedback session should discuss no more than 2 issues or the person will feel attacked or demoralised. Also stick to behaviours you can actually change/influence.
  • Ensure you give both positive and negative feedback, not just negative.

It is important to give feedback both ways ie manager to staff, and staff to manager. This is important to improve performance, but also to ensure that the person most likely to be able to fix issues is aware of the issues!

Source: Mind Tools


Receiving Feedback

  • Learning to accept constructive criticism is not something that comes naturally to most people, even if it is entirely accurate.
  • In the heat of the moment, many people react defensively and angrily attack the person giving feedback
  • BUT we need to get over it. There is value in constructive criticism; it helps us improve performance, improve relationships, and become more successful in all we do.
  • So how do you learn to stop being defensive??


6 Steps to Better Receive Feedback

1.Stop your first reaction.

Don’t say anything, halt any negative facial expression and remind yourself to stay calm. This gives your brain time to process what was said to you.

2.Remember the benefits of getting feedback.

It can be a challenge to receive criticism from a co-worker, peer, manager or someone you don’t fully respect, but accurate and constructive feedback comes even from flawed sources.

3.Listen for understanding.

Allow the person to share their complete thoughts without interruption. When they finish, repeat back what you heard for clarity. Avoid analysing or questioning their comments or perspective. It is difficult to give feedback – the person giving feedback may be nervous or may not express their ideas perfectly.

4.Look the person in the eyes and thank them for sharing their feedback.

This does not necessarily mean you are agreeing with their assessment, but does show you appreciate the effort it took to evaluate your performance and share their thoughts.

5.Ask questions to deconstruct the feedback.

Avoid engaging in a debate, but ask questions to get to the root of the problem and possible solutions for addressing them. Determine if it is an isolated issue. Acknowledge anything that is not in dispute. Seek specific examples to help you understand the issue.

6.Request time to follow up.

For larger or issues without agreement, this may need to be after a short time period to allow you to process the feedback, seek advice from others, and think about solutions.

Source: The Muse

The meaning of communication is the response it gets—regardless of your good intentions.

This section brings all we have discussed previously together. Much of the information comes from Stagen (see references), including direct quotes.

Life is filled with misunderstandings, missed opportunities, mistakes, and conflict. Many of these issues result from the disconnect between intention and perception (or impact). Understanding the process that occurs from intent through to impact can improve the ability of people to communicate effectively.

This picture is a perfect example of how the same message is perceived. How it is looked at, and who is looking at it, can change the number of boxes that are seen. How many can YOU see?

An archer shooting arrows at a target is also a useful metaphor for exploring this, and is explained below.



The archer represents communication intent. They intend to communicate meaning to a person or group of people.

The archer has their own ideas as to what their communication means and what they want to convey.



The arrow represents the actual message. This encompasses the words used as well as non-verbal communications such tone of voice and body language.

The communicator must use words and symbols to convey a message in order to closely match their intended meaning.  


The Perception (or Impact)

The target represents the impact of the message on the receiver—in other words, how the message is heard and interpreted (perceived) by the listener. 

In the (unlikely) event that the listener hears and interprets the message, exactly as the sender intended it, then it is a ‘bull’s-eye’. 

We can think of the archer’s arrows hitting the outer rings of the target, or missing it altogether, as representing the situation where the listener interprets the message very differently than the sender intended.  


Is It Possible to Improve Our Aim?

Communication misses the mark for two main reasons.

The first is that the ‘sender’ may lack  communication skills that would allow them to more accurately articulate their message. Put simply, some days they may have ‘bad aim’.

The second is that the ‘receiver’ interprets the message through their own filters which we can term ‘mindset’.



Mindset refers to personal filters that determine how information is interpreted. Think of it as your personal ‘worldview’.

A listener’s mindset includes:

  • their orientation and attitude about communication itself e.g. over or under-communication, or avoiding conflict or engaging it unnecessarily.
  • a person’s orientation toward learning or feedback. e.g. getting argumentative or defensive and not even hearing the intended message.
  • values and beliefs
  • assumptions
  • how they interpret information and draw conclusions.

This all feeds in to the section about adapting to the communication styles of others. The more you adapt, the better your ‘aim’ will be. Skilful communicators adjust their message delivery to account for the other person’s ‘mindset’.One of these tools is called ‘framing’. To understand framing, it’s helpful to understand subtext.


Meaning is Often Submerged as Subtext

An iceberg is a good way to think about the message (the content) and the meaning of your communication (the subtext, sometimes called context).


What is above the water – Content (10%)



What is below the water = Context/Subtext (90%)


In most interactions, this ‘subtext’ is submerged, not explicitly seen or acknowledged.

‘When you forget to make the subtext explicit, listeners often fail to understand the purpose of the conversation, misinterpret your intentions, or misunderstand the meaning of the message.’ 

If you make the subtext clear, state the reason and purpose for the discussion, make your assumptions explicit, and let the listener know why the topic is relevant to them, the impact of your communication is much more likely to match your intent.

This subtext can also be referred to as the ‘frame’. This brings us to what is perhaps the most fundamental skill of conscious communicators: ‘Framing’.



The speaker too often assumes the other knows and shares the overall objective. Explicit framing is useful precisely because the assumption of a shared frame is frequently untrue.

When speakers fail to frame the communication, listeners have to guess where they are coming from or what point they are driving toward – and people frequently guess wrong. Too often, the guessing is negative. Without a clear frame, it is easy to assume that others have negative motives.

Most people’s frames are unconscious. Ensure you haven’t assumed that your listener shares the same frame as you before delivering a message.

‘Framing promotes clarity, prevents confusion, and most importantly, aligns intent with impact. You can use framing to address relevancy, state purpose and intentions, expose assumptions, and check for agreement. With practice, you can learn to recognise other people’s mindsets (assumptions, attitudes, worldview, motivation) and frame your communication so that it is more understandable and resonant.’ 

Source: Stagen (Leadership Academy)

Self-directed activity 4

Write down examples of when your intended message was perceived differently to what you intended. Write down the intended message and what was actually perceived (the impact).


Now think about: How could you have re-framed your message so that the intended message was perceived?

Conclusion, Quiz and Evaluation:

You have now completed your online communication training. Ensure you have downloaded and saved your handout – encompassing the Communication Styles Assessment – for your own records.

Please click on the next link to take you to the communication quiz to assess your learning on this topic:

Communication Quiz


Evaluation is important to Going Rural Health. Please spare a moment to tell us what you think. The link below will take you to our evaluation page:

Evaluation Survey

Solution to Self-Directed Activity 3:

‘We are not taking a test today’

There are multiple different ways this phrase can be interpreted, depending on which word is emphasised.

  1. No emphasis at all – pure statement of fact
  2. Emphasis on ‘We’ – someone else is taking a test
  3. Emphasis on ‘not’ – firmly disputing that we are taking a test
  4. Emphasis on ‘a’ – we are taking more than one test today
  5. Emphasis oh ‘test’ – we are doing something else today
  6. Emphasis on ‘today’ – we are taking a test another day

This exercise focuses on voice tone – showing just how much effect non-verbal cues (non-verbal communication) can have on perceived meaning.