Miscommunication is a common problem and something that is amplified in the work environment. A quick instruction or message can be completely misconstrued, or misunderstood to the point where the implementation is wrong.

A good example of this from our everyday lives is how you give someone directions to your house over the telephone . There are several approaches to this:

·         You could explain to the person, turn-for-turn, how to drive to your house,

·         You automatically start using your hands to signal turns – even if the person can’t see you, or

·         You send them a map (or share your location) showing them where you want them to go. 

I think you’d agree that the easiest solution is to use some form of visual to direct them. A map works nicely – but even adding details such as a certain landmark – makes it easier for that person to follow your directions.

This same rule applies to many things : Furniture assembly manuals are illustrated, microwave meals have an icon to give us the preparation time and our cellphones use icons to tell us what the weather is like.

There’s no denying that visuals are a very important tool when it comes to explaining a concept or process. Here’s how using visuals can improve your business communications.

The all-seeing eye

We have 5 senses – Hearing, Taste, Smell, Touch and Sight. According to “Human Anatomy & Physiology”, almost 50% of the brain is used to process visual information and 70% of your sensory receptors are in your eyes. This means most of our knowledge comes from things that we have seen.

How do we learn?

Child development theorist Linda Kreger Silverman says that less that 30% of people are purely visual thinkers. She says that 45% use a combination of visuals and words and interestingly,  only 25% of the population thinks exclusively in words.

In business, we mainly use sight and sound to receive information in the form of emails or conversations. Including visual instructions increases the chance of the message being communicated properly.

Think fast!

Our brains processes visuals 60 000 times faster than text. In a public place we usually look at signs to give directions. If we need the restrooms, we look for a sign with the male and female icons. The sign doesn’t have to include the word “restrooms” – the icon gives us the information we need.

Show me how:

People that follow a visual instruction perform 323%  better than people with instructions in plain text. Imagine having to try yoga for the first time. Not only do you have an instructor TELL you what to do – they SHOW you how to do it. This reduces the chances of injury, not to mention embarrassment.

Infographics are the way to go

Visual tools are not only an effective way of getting your message across, but it’s also necessary to improve understanding and productivity in the workplace. In order to grow your business and create better understanding among colleagues – we need to move towards visual instructions. The difference between “telling” and “showing” could be the gateway of better understanding and communication in the workplace.

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Skills Portal: https://www.skillsportal.co.za/content/let’s-talk-about-visuals