Why do you communicate?
Clearly, that question has a million answers. You might communicate to express a need, to share your feelings, to defend a belief, and to comfort a loved one – all before lunch today.
But when we communicate with an audience for the audience, we’ve got one of two things on our minds: ourselves or our audience. And only one of those frames of mind will allow our communication to actually move our listeners to action.
Are You Commenting or Communicating?
Webster’s Dictionary defines a comment as “an observation expressed directly or indirectly.” To communicate, on the other hand, is to “to transmit information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily understood.” A commentator offers a performative, surface-level assessment of facts; a communicator influences their listeners and passes on their conviction to ensure their audience has powerful, practical takeaways.
When you speak, are you commenting or communicating? Here are five key differences between the two.
1. COMMENTATORS ARE SPEAKER-ORIENTED; COMMUNICATORS ARE AUDIENCE-ORIENTED.
Commentators see an opportunity to speak as an opportunity to perform. Before they speak to others, their main concern is themselves – how they look, how they sound, or whether or not they appear polished and prepared.
Communicators, however, aren’t concerned about appearances for the sake of appearances. Before they speak, they are wondering about the audience. What do they need right now? How will they respond to the message? Are they ready to receive it?
2. COMMENTATORS ARE SUBJECT-ORIENTED; COMMUNICATORS ARE ATMOSPHERE-ORIENTED.
No matter what subject you’re speaking on, who is listening, or how much time you’ve spent crafting your message, your audience cannot receive it until the atmosphere is right.
Commentators are so focused on what they will say that they disregard this all-important truth: the medium is the message. The context in which the message is delivered can make or break what you’re trying to communicate.
Communicators, meanwhile, care very much about the message; they simply understand that atmosphere matters just as much. They know that unless the context of the conversation is free from distractions, they won’t be able to impact the hearts of their listeners – and if their hearts aren’t moved, their lives won’t be changed.
3. COMMENTATORS SPEAK FOR THE HEAD; COMMUNICATORS SPEAK FROM THE HEART.
When a commentator speaks to an audience, they see their message as a lesson to be given. Communicators see it as a life to be lived. Commentators can speak on subjects that are exceptions to their lives, but for a communicator, their message is an extension of their experience. A communicator shares what they know not only with their head, but with their heart.
4. COMMENTATORS ARE INFORMATION-ORIENTED; COMMUNICATORS ARE ACTION-ORIENTED.
Have you ever heard a speaker who bombarded you with so much information, you felt overwhelmed? These kinds of speakers can leave us feeling like we just watched a content-rich presentation, but we’re just not capable of keeping up. But more than likely, your speaker was a commentator and not a communicator.
Commentators are concerned with giving their audience as much information as possible, but communication is intentional. Communication is the relaying of information with purpose. Instead, the end goal of a communicator is action. They want their words to shape the lives of their listeners. They want their audience to hear and act. Communicators know that information changes nothing and that action has the potential to change everything.
5. COMMENTATORS LOVE TO SPEAK FOR PEOPLE; COMMUNICATORS LOVE THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM THEY SPEAK.
When we distill the differences between commentators and communicators down to their essence, it comes to this: commentators love people’s attention; communicators love people.
If a person is thinking of themselves, they cannot be thinking about others. Someone concerned with how they are coming across will not be concerned with their need to be vulnerable for, and sensitive to, the needs of their audience. Commentators and communicators may both be speaking, but only those after true connection can powerfully impact those listening.
Looking for other insights on communication and connection?
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