There are a lot of ways a leader, people in general actually, can cause communication to go sideways. Perhaps the biggest is simply not communicating often enough. Assuming people know what you’re thinking and therefore you don’t need to communicate much, is often the fatal flaw of what could have been a successful leadership tenure.
Another huge mistake is assuming that simply because they delivered a message it was received. Believing that what you said is the same as what other people heard has caused more problems then we could ever list here. World War One was basically started over a miscommunication. If you have ever been part of a conversation where the other person said “well you said this” and you responded with a “no, I didn’t say that” then you have been involved in a miscommunication.
Still another mistake is thinking that effective communication is a 50-50 proposition. If you do your part to talk and listen well and the other person does their part to do the same then you’ll always have successful communication. But let’s look at that another way, each of you giving 50% effort will result in crystal clear communication? Really?
The most successful communications happen when both parties accept 100% responsibility for the success of the communication process. Both parties choose their words to help the other person understand exactly what they are trying to say. If one side of the communication is trying to use “big” words to sound more impressive then they are limiting the success of the communication. I’d rather be thought of as a simpleton who communicates very well than a genius who can’t get their point across.
Both sides of a communication must listen intently, lingering on the words of the speaker until they are 100% certain they understand the message they were intended to convey. If not, it is the listener’s responsibility to ask for clarification. But…it is also the speaker’s responsibility to ask the listener if they “got it” before continuing the conversation. That’s the 100-100 proposition of effective communication.
These “rules for clarity” also apply to written communication. Don’t assume because you wrote something with one meaning in mind that your reader will interpret it in the same way. Remember, readers can’t see your body language. They can’t hear your tone of voice and they have no idea how hard your hitting those keys on your keyboard.
Here’s a pretty darn good rule for effective written communication. NEVER send a text or email while you’re angry. One night’s sleep can make for a much more measured response and a response that you’re much less likely to regret.
So here’s the thing about this entire post. I’d be shocked if there is anything in this post you don’t already know. That’s the case with most of my posts. The question is, as always, are you using what you know? Do you often skip some, or most, of those “rules for clarity?” Do you assign 50% of the responsibility for successful communication to someone else? Are you assuming that because you said it “they” heard it?
It’s easy to get lazy in our communication with other people. That laziness often puts us in a hole that can be hard to get out of. Don’t dig yourself a hole. Think a few seconds before you say it or write it. Listen to it with the other person’s ears. Read it with their eyes. Put yourself in their shoes and ask how you would reply if someone said that to you. AND BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT THAT!
Effective communication is the heart of successful relationships. Be they business oriented or very personal in nature, the best communicators have the best relationships. Always been that way and I suspect it always will be that way.
Think about it.
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