New ways to communicate—such as a blog, Facebook, instant messaging, and Twitter—question the traditional model of communication theory. Is it important? And who even thinks about it?
It is important. The model assigns responsibility for success—and successful communication is a basis for business.
Do we really think about it? Yes, we do. We think about it often. Case in point: the television commercial for Verizon that features the hapless cell phone user repeating the ubiquitous phrase so many of us have uttered, “Can you hear me now?”
Twenty years ago, the only obstacle to a successful conversation was a busy signal, or a corporate gatekeeper. Today, we often avoid the telephone in lieu of email. Now we make a daily trek to the spam trap to seek a much-anticipated message. Yes, we think about success in communication.
The traditional theoretical model of communication was sender-transmission receiver. According to this model, a breakdown in communication could happen anywhere along the way. For example, the sender may have written an ambiguous letter. It’s misunderstood. Okay—sender is at fault. Or, that Verizon call gets dropped. Blame it on the provider, cell tower, or cell phone. It’s a transmission problem. Or the receiver may be at fault. The message was clear and delivered without flaw to voice mail, except someone was too busy to check her voice mail from the road.
A revised model places the onus of communication on the sender. Plain and simple. Your cell phone dropped an important sales call? Anticipate. It’s your job to know where you have to be and when you have to get there to complete your call. Think you’ve done your job just because you hit the send button? This model says you cannot blame it on the spam trap. You’re the sender, and it’s your job to make sure the email was received. It’s called follow-through.
Maybe you are happy with yourself. You did get through with that sales call. The phone rang. They picked up. You spoke with the decision maker. And you explained the benefits of your service.
But that’s not success ... yet. Did you ask yourself if you listened closely? Did your sales pitch fully address their need? Whose responsibility is it to assure that the unique benefits you offered are completely understood? It’s yours.
Communication seems simple when it works well. I listened, I communicated, and we closed the deal. But for all those deals whose door remains ajar, the responsibility is not a theoretical construct. It’s real. And this model says the responsibility lies with you—Mr. and Ms. Sender.