Miscommunication happens much too often causing unnecessary conflict in one form or another. And so, a cycle begins… communication, miscommunication, frustration, mistakes, frustration, conflict, frustration, resentment, frustration… Hopefully you will find some conflict resolution in this cycle, but the sad truth is the majority of the time the resolution is more in the form of punishment/degradation to someone who was never communicated to correctly in the first place.
Stop the cycle! If you have been on the giving or receiving end of any miscommunication, you realize the importance of communicating with conviction. Meaning: Not just communicating in an acceptable style, but communicating with a decided effort for clear understanding.
If you happen to be the leader who is communicating ineffectively then let me reiterate, stop the cycle! You are creating more work for yourself, more frustration to yourself and your employees, probably more resentment than you want to imagine, and quite possibly losing talented employees as you communicate with confusion or coercion.
If you are the employee who is communicating unclearly then one would have to wonder how your relationships are with your colleagues or your superiors. Your inattention to communication could very well cost you opportunities for work projects, opportunities for growth, or opportunities for promotion. The highest price you may pay for your lack of attention to communication is your job.
Seems we all have an investment in the idea of communicating with conviction. Communication is the act of conveying a meaningful message. Communication can take many forms – verbal, nonverbal/writing, signals, or behavior. You communicate with words and actions, and if clear meaning was not conveyed, or the meaning was misinterpreted, then the communication failed. Failed communication is what results in the vicious cycle described above.
It is important to focus on our own communication skills. You have the power to change only yourself. Exerting any energy to “fix” someone else is futile. Their development is up to them, and while you are wasting time noticing how badly someone else communicates, take that time as an opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively in response to their poor communication. Again, it can only come back to ourselves.
Communication is tough! We do communicate with signals. Maybe it’s a wave of the hand, a shake of the finger, or a nod. Our world grows smaller everyday with technology, and not all signals mean the same to all people, cultures, or nationalities. Make the extra effort to be sure you are using signals that can be understood and are not offensive.
Our behaviors also convey messages – nonverbal, even more critical than our words. The Mehrabian Myth suggests that when delivering a message 55% of the message is in our behavior, the way we look, or present ourselves. Crossed arms accompanied by a scowl when telling your boss that you’d be happy to take on that new assignment does not convey the message of excitement or confidence. Rolling your eyes, smiling, even the way you dress is part of what you are communicating. Consider this: Don’t we put on our best suit when we interview for a new job? We do this to project a professional image without words, or to communicate professionalism nonverbally. Make sure when communicating that your words match your nonverbal signals.
The Mehrabian Myth goes on to suggest that when delivering messages 38% of our message is in the way we sound. Our tone, the speed of our speech, or the fluency of our words either enforce or take away from the clear message we are trying to send. The interesting thing is that according to the Mehrabian Myth only 7% of our message is actually in the words we select to create our message. Now, whether you agree with Albert Mehrabian or not, what we can take from these numbers is that when communicating your voice, words, and body language need to be consistent with the message you are trying to send.
How to even begin on the subject of nonverbal communication… let it just be said that some communication is very effective, maybe even more effective in the written form. Let it also be said that written communication is only appropriate for non-sensitive subjects. You are the communicator. Always use face-to-face verbal communication for sensitive subjects. Think about what you are saying before shooting off an email.
Great example and true story: The president of an organization sends out an email to all employees ordering them (and requiring the email to be printed, signed, dated, and turned into HR by all employees) to stop talking negatively about the company. Apparently, conversations had been heard in the community of unhappy employees and poor quality from this particular organization, and apparently the source of the information were employees of the company. In this instance is it really appropriate to send out an email? Is there really a bigger issue going on that should be addressed? Isn’t the reputation of your organization important enough to mandate a face-to-face team meeting? Wouldn’t a meeting provide the forum to answer questions, ask questions, and troubleshoot what can be done to provide what seems to be missing to employees, and a better image for the organization? This very example is reason enough to restate here the value of knowing your topic, the sensitivity of your topic, and the need to understand when it is appropriate to communicate verbally or nonverbally.
That one example should be enough, but let me provide just one more. Another great example and another true story. In this particular organization an email was sent out, again to all employees, and again from top management, stating that employees should arrive at scheduled meetings on time and prepared. It further said that not arriving on time is considered a performance issue. Ask any employee who consistently shows up on time and prepared how they felt when they received that email. What the leader actually did here was send out a blanket email to everyone to try to shape up the performance of a select few employees, and in the process offended every employee who does what is required of them. At the same time, the employees that needed to receive this communication probably didn’t see themselves in it if they even bothered to read the whole email before hitting delete. If this is truly considered a performance issue, an individual one-on-one and face-to-face meeting would have been the appropriate way to handle this situation. You are the leader. It is your responsibility to find the time, but more importantly it is your responsibility to hold your people accountable.
Volumes have been written on the topic of communication, so let’s end today by stating communication is one of the easiest ways to find more time in your day. Exercising proper communication skills eliminates time wasters such as misunderstandings, mistakes, and conflicts. Taking the time to develop your communication skills and sending a clear message that is understood builds relationships, trust, and loyalty. If the message is important enough for you to convey it, do it in a manner of conviction.