First seek to understand, then seek to be understood.

Interpersonal communication is the process of sending and receiving information with another person. Communication with this other person can be both verbal and nonverbal.

The idea is simple,┬ábut┬áthe implications are monstrous. It seems so easy to say, “I communicate well with others.” But how do you know? How do you measure your ability to communicate? How do you measure your communication success? Is it your ability to get what you want out of an interaction? Or the number of followers and friends you have on Facebook and Twitter? Google Analytics? How?

Let me stick to the basic idea. When you have a ‘personal’ interaction with someone you usually send them messages, both verbally and non verbally. However, non-verbal language accounts for 90% of a total interaction. Cues are given through eye contact, vocal inflection as well as haptic interactions or the act of touching i.e. a high five or hand shake are a big part of any interaction.

Each of these cues offer nonverbal messages as to the person’s intentions or feelings. They also cause feelings in the receiver, whether positive or negative.

How much of what we reveal about ourselves in an interaction depends on how much another person is willing to reveal about themselves. When someone opens up to you with a personal secret, you are more likely to respond with something a little more in depth about yourself, right? This give-and-take principle is how we adjust the depth we are willing to dive into a certain topic within an interaction

How does Social Media deal with the non-verbal part of an interaction?

Listen more and talk less?


Mike Toner

Based in Alexandria, Virginia Michael is the Manager of Social Media at Navy Federal Credit Union. By evening, he's a husband, dog owner and runner. Toner writes about social media strategy, tools, training and best practices for social and digital marketing programs.


2 thoughts on “First seek to understand, then seek to be understood.

  1. One way to warm up social media is to focus on the other person. So, yes listen [read] more and talk [type] less.

    On the flip side, talk [type] more when people need answers – don’t be shy about sharing your knowledge.

    This morning I went to Jeff Pulver’s social media breakfast where we “tagged” each other and wrote on each other’s wall/nametag with Post-its. Quite an exercise and experience. You can read a recap on my blog.
    By the way, thanks for the blogroll add.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks Barbara,
    It’s important to remember that social media can be very hard for some to step into. There are so many conversations already taking place and sort of a bubble community among the early adopters that make it difficult to feel comfortable.

    For me, I have been listening and reading and catching up on the conversation and have slowly started engaging with the folks I find interesting. However, sharing my knowledge, experience and reactions with others is scary as it can easily be misinterpreted by the viewing audience.

    But maybe that’s the art and goal of writing in a social world. To create an instant understanding from your reader, no matter who they may be?

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