“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw
Communication is such a minefield these days. Co-workers often complain about the misuse and abuse of communication while their smart phone sits inches within reach or even in the palm of their hand. Not too long ago I was in my hometown Naples Florida for the holidays sitting in an outdoor café enjoying a cup of hot cinnamon tea. As I was inhaling the romantic aroma of my tea I overheard the conversation next to me.
“Mom, when you were a kid did you sit by your landline telephone and wait to make plans, or did you just go out and do something?”
At this point I audibly laughed out loud at the preposterous scenario the child was presenting. I am giving my age away a bit to reveal the picture that appeared in my mind. I pictured the mother sitting in a 1970’s avocado colored kitchen in a chair below a mustard colored phone.
Of course, we didn’t do this. We made plans, we were accountable to those plans and committed to showing up for our friends. Our friends also demonstrated accountability and commitment. These were skills we learned early in life.
Alas today we have more ways to communicate yet it seems we communicate less. There are countless hours wasted at work while employees poll their colleagues requesting assistance interpreting a text or email rather than talk directly to the person they seek clarity from. In doing this we have shown our hand there is a lack of trust in the relationship. We are consulting with those we trust to help provide clarity for those we trust less or perceive have presented us with a situation that violates this trust.
When our fellow colleagues demonstrate the competence to do their job consistently, express care and concern for us and the organization, trust is formed. All three of these elements are needed if we expect to have more than situational trust. High trust relationships are highly productive relationships.
Communication works like this, the higher the amount of trust the closer the communication. In a high trust relationship I am quite comfortable communicating face to face. In a low trust environment, I may choose to email, possibly text, maybe even work through a third party if trust is incredibly low. Think about a contentious break up of a company or relationship where two people are working through attorneys and perhaps even their attorneys aren’t getting along. Very low trust in this situation.
All of this makes sense, right? How do you address it and fix it? I walk you through these scenarios, so you understand root cause. If your employee is complaining about a nasty email it is rarely about the email. It is about the trust between the two individuals. Communication break downs happen, but they happen in higher volume in low trust environments.
If you are having a communication breakdown get out from behind the phone or computer, sit down the other party, assume positive intent and start communicating. Consider the following before your discussion:
- Ask questions. Rather than make assumptions. Two quotes come to mind:
“Don’t believe everything you think – or feel.” -Anna Chancellor
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” -Anaïs Nin
- Change perspectives. Considering a situation from the other persons perspective helps to pull you out of an emotional state and think about what is happening more clearly.
- Seek the council of a coach. Coaches are great resources for resolving communication conflicts, helping you to identify root cause, and exploring behavior patterns that may be contributing to a negative cycle.
Communication done well is great. We form friendships, create humor, innovate, learn and grow. Communication done poorly can lead to the same things it just takes time to reflect and learn from it. At the end of the day self-awareness is all we can hope for.
Communication is the vehicle for understanding the interests, goals, dreams and values of others. Want to learn more about your own communication style?
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Michele is passionate about connecting people, developing business strategies and leading people and organizations through change. Michele’s career began in the healthcare industry where she held several financial leadership roles. She now works as an Executive Consultant where she enjoys partnering with organizations to assist in their strategic planning, team building and executive coaching. With intellectual curiosity, humor and deep empathy, Michele nurtures, inspires, and empowers teams to rethink the way they do things so they can fulfill their greatest potential.