“Diversity Fluency”: Communication in the Workplace and Beyond

Think about the most recent conversation that you had. Was it catching up with your best friend? Were you talking to a co-worker about the time-crunch that your boss has you under to complete your latest assignment? Were you talking to your boss him/herself? Many of us don’t pay much attention to the subtle nuances or the little details that take place each time we open our mouths (or our browsers) to say something.

Communication can roughly be defined as the process of exchanging or sharing thoughts and ideas. When we think of communication, what typically comes to mind is two or more people talking to each other face-to-face. Now, if we were still living in the pre-digital age, that would be true, but as we all know, times have certainly changed. Two items have forever altered the landscape of how we communicate with one another. In today’s workplace, employers often discourage the use of electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets and computers, knowing full well that they only serve as a distraction from the task at hand. Those in our everyday lives are also beginning to notice how technology impacts the authenticity and meaning that we gather from our interactions. Parents are fighting for their childrens’ attention long enough to get their eyes away from a screen and back onto the food on their dinner plates. Relationships have even been damaged over fights about posts on social media. It would appear as if humans are losing touch with the people around them.

This social phenomenon can be given the term “diversity fluency.” Diversity is essentially the state of being diverse, while fluency is thought of as relating to adapting languages under varying circumstances and conditions. At its most basic core, “diversity fluency” is communication that can be tailored to suit different people and their needs. During personal communication, one can use tone, inflection, mannerisms and much more to their advantage as a means of getting their point across. “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).” This simple fact shows that only seven percent of the meaning gained from a message is from the words themselves (written or spoken), while the remaining interpretation is derived from all other factors. It is personality and life that gives all meaning to our words, and therein lies the downfall with technological communication.

But unless we were to eliminate all technology in its entirety, there is no avoiding digital communication, so therefore we need to learn how to make this form of communication as personal and as close to authentic conversation as possible. Since all that is to be interpreted is the word, the emphasis has to be placed on the extra meaning and intention behind it. In every interaction, whether online or offline, imagine that the person that you’re speaking to is standing right there in front of you. How would they react to what you’re saying? What do you believe that they would be thinking at that exact moment? Would they be smiling out of excitement or yawning from boredom? What emotions would your words stir up inside of them? If you want that raise, speak with authority and let it be known to your boss that you are worthy of more than what you are being given. If you want that client, then tell them with all certainty that you are more dependable and work harder than anyone else that they will come across. All of life’s possibilities are found in your ability to express your deepest desires.