“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Consider the message in the bottle that was never received. Communication is so important in both our personal and business lives and is vital in creating and maintaining our relationships. When you communicate, you want to think about the best way to ensure your message arrives and is received.
So many misunderstandings are created by poor communication. So much lost time is caused by miscommunication through confusion, misunderstandings, and the development of poor communication patterns.
Poor or no communication often means missed deadlines, frustration, poor teamwork, loss of motivation, duplication of resources, wrong decisions, and broken relationships. It leads to overruns, higher costs and loss of customers. So how does this happen?
There are a variety of reasons for poor communication. Here are 9 common communication mistakes with some suggestions on how we can avoid or correct them:
Not really listening. Most people think that good speaking is the essence of good communication. However, good listening skills are critical to our understanding and therefore effective communication. (In another of my articles I look at listening in detail). The more we understand of other people’s points of view, the better we will be able to improve rapport and add value in helping solve their problems.
Using the wrong language. Not necessarily whether we are talking in German, English or Chinese; but we should use the type of language that connects properly with our audience via spoken or written word. For example, avoid using technical words or acronyms with people who are not technically biased. Know your audience.
Not being in tune with the moment. Yelling at someone before they understand the problem is not going to accomplish much. The other person will just get defensive and hear nothing because they just observe the anger being displayed, rather than any of the content. Empathy and sympathy works much better than conflict.
Choosing the wrong setting. Trying to have a confidential, person-to-person discussion with someone on the subway during rush hour, or doing a performance appraisal in the hallway is probably not the most effective way of making your point. Pick the appropriate place for the type of communication to be had.
Not thinking about the best way to communicate. Some people receive messages louder and clearer depending on the nature of the delivery. For example, I prefer the spoken word, more often than not. But my receptivity and level of comprehension will depend on the type of message being directed to me. An e-mail telling me that the building is burning will not get my attention as quickly or with as much impact as a phone call.
Picking the wrong vehicle to deliver a message. Pick the most appropriate delivery mechanism that suits the nature of the message be it text, e-mail, phone call, voice mail or fax. For example, depending on the circumstances, a 2-page hard copy print-out may be better for inducing informal conversation and agreement than a 60 page PowerPoint presentation. Telling someone that they are being let go should not be an e-mail or text. That’s the coward’s way. Meet with them to explain and empathize.
Not understanding what style of delivery is required. Confrontation vs. Conversation would be an example of differing styles for communication. Again, it all depends on the audience and the message that has to be conveyed. Very often we need to change our normal delivery style to suit our audience.
Delivering a long, boring dissertation that frequently repeats itself. We don’t have to over explain things. In today’s world, we deal with sound bites. Twitter is a good discipline. If you can’t attract me and tell me what you want to say in 140 characters, then it’s probably not worth saying. Therefore, we need to be brief, direct, have a call to action, and make our message relevant.
Selecting the wrong time or place. Having that overdue motivational speech at the end of the meeting when everyone is packing up to leave may not be the best time to get everyone’s attention and build morale. Picking the optimum time and environment is key to making the maximum impact with our desired message.
Communication has to be worked at if we are going to avoid or correct those mistakes. This list is by no means exhaustive, so let me know of other examples you can share that you have experienced and how you either avoided or corrected them.