The difference between Telling & Communicating.

According to Nobel laureate and famous playwright George Bernard Shaw, "the single greatest obstacle to communication is the idea that it has occurred."

Even a baby who cannot speak using words can communicate!

A person who is speech impaired can communicate as well!

Even in our subconscious states (dreams), we communicate!

When we enter ‘communication’ in Google, about 7,20,00,000 search results emerge every second.

The reason communication is one of the most sought-after skills is that it is something that everyone does but seldom excels at.

Webster describes communication as the process of imparting knowledge, exchanging ideas, or expressing one’s views.

Additionally, Webster defines telling as the act of conveying information verbally or in writing.

In this case, there is little distinction between the two words; yet, they are conceptually opposed.

The differences between both the terms are are:

  • Telling is just the act of imparting information while communicating is the process of imparting information to elicit the intended action.

    Consider a kid who is watching television during his examinations and his mother requests that he turns off the television and begin studying. He ignores her and continues with his program.

    The mother may conclude or judge that the kid is either uninterested in academics or is becoming stubborn. However, was the mother interacting with the kid, or was she just instructing him to study?

    Communication is conveying information with a goal. In this instance, the mother’s goal was not just to instruct the kid to study; rather her goal should have been to make the child discontinue his television show & begin to study.

    In the latter case, her choice of words, tone of voice, and physiology would have changed as a result of her knowledge of her goal.

  • Telling begins with words, communication does not begin with words or any other form of expression; rather, it begins at the level of thinking.

    Many individuals attribute their difficulty to communicate to their lack of English competence or restricted vocabulary; nevertheless, it is not the communication armor that matters, but the clarity of idea that results in clear and succinct communication. Communication does not begin with expression (verbal or nonverbal), but with the decision to express in the mind. Communication begins with mental clarity, and then expression becomes ever more precise.

    Bear in mind that communication is the greatest creative endeavor of the intellect.

  • Telling is centred around the speaker while communicating is geared around the listener.

    As with the saying, “one size does not fit all,” communication is not about the speaker or his style; it is about the listener.

    In the telling, it is just an exchange of information; therefore, a speaker’s manner and delivery of the information may be adjusted. However, in communication, it is critical to understand the 3W of the listener-Who, What, and Why so that the message conveyed results in the intended action.

    As Stephen Covey, author of the self-help bible The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, advises, in communicating, seek to understand first and then to be understood.

Thus Communication is about You & Not Me!

The writer is a change catalyst and positive psychology coach.  She has been assisting organizations develop their most important asset- its people!

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About The Changes Academy

The Changes is an Organization Development Consulting firm that helps corporates, campuses and individuals to achieve business, functional and personal goals.

We assist professionals and students by designing and delivering learning programs to equip them with the skills that are vital for success in the New World.

Sonia is an internationally certified L&D specialist & soft skills coach. She has been leading behavioural transformations through designing and delivering learning programs.

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