Communication — An Incedoism
It is an Incedoism that communication is both the root of all problems, and the solution. Poor communication leads to more issues than just about anything; while communicating effectively helps you land at resolutions that could otherwise seem impossible. It’s them right? They don’t know how to communicate with you, do they? Each one of us believes we communicate effectively and it’s often the ‘other guy’ who isn’t paying attention or simply doesn’t get it. Truth is very different. Just because we open our mouth and words come out does not mean we are communicating effectively. It simply means we are sending a message, though there is no guarantee what the message is or how it will be received. In my book, Finding the Fork in the Road, I refer to a quote by Francis Garagnon. It says “Between what I think I want to say, what I believe I’m saying, what you want to hear, what you believe you understood and what you actually understood there are at least nine possibilities for misunderstanding.” This says it all about how often we think we are communicating and we simply aren’t.
What is communication?
The dictionary defines communication as: to make known, pass news or information; convey ideas and be connected. But is it really deeper than that? Incedo says yes…way deeper. What’s included in communication? Body language: how you show up often communicates things that may not align with what you are trying to say. For instance, if you are trying to suggest you are an open door but you are standing with your arms crossed, you may be sending mixed signals. Speaking: is simply the words coming out of your mouth. Hearing: you must also be willing to listen when communicating. Finally, the language you choose to use is terribly important to the delivery of the message you are trying to communicate. As Aristotle put it, human beings are distinguished from other species by our ability to use language. Yet too often we don’t listen to one another. Too often we are invested in our views and thus explain (or worse yet, preach) when we should inquire. We get caught up in our own preconceptions and disguise our feelings and fears, and thus hide our meaning. In many ways, talk (or communication) drives us apart instead of what it is intended to do…the art of thinking together.
Building blocks of communication
I believe that all communication has a series of building blocks. And that if you miss one step, communication will go awry. Those building blocks are: listening, assumptions and judgements, questions, messaging, negotiation and persuasion, and commitment and accountability. So, for example, if you aren’t listening (or the person you are trying to communicate with isn’t listening), there is no way for communication to be successful. What do I mean by not listening, even when you are the one speaking? Example: the person you are speaking to keeps interrupting you or they suggest what you are asking for isn’t possible or they say nothing (which is as important as what they are saying). You simply keep talking without hearing what the other person is saying or not saying. When this happens there is no possibility for the communication to be successful.
Take messaging. The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug — Mark Twain. While having a clear message, knowing what you want to communicate and the goal is essential; if questions are not part of the communication the message may not be accurately sent or received. Example: you want a report with specific information created. You call in one of your team members and explain what you want. Maybe you even tell them you want the report by Thursday. Now listen to what happens. Thursday rolls around and you don’t have the report. Or you have the report and it’s not exactly what you wanted. What happened?
Communication is so much more than simply opening your mouth and speaking. How we say things is as important as what we say. Clarity of our message is critical…if we don’t know the goal of our communication, how would the person we are speaking with know? And at the core of all successful communication is listening. Without proper listening we will miss what might be essential for us to learn or know about the other person or the situation. Before you open your mouth, make sure you have thought about what you want to say and then be prepared to listen, and listen deeply.