What’s on your to-do list for today? Imagine it includes…
- Giving Jason his performance review.
- Talking to the AP manager about complaints you’re getting from vendors who aren’t being paid on time.
- Giving Winnie the information she needs for the RFP.
- Convincing your boss that you need another analyst.
These kinds of activities all depend on communication skills. And when that’s the case, it means your to-do list is also filled with numerous opportunities for error and misinterpretation.
Communication is hard work. We often assume it’s a simple act of sending an email, leaving a voice message, or stopping by for a quick conversation. And yet our experience reminds us of all the times when things didn’t work out as expected because of a misunderstanding. Why? The simple answer, barriers.
Whenever there is a difference between the message you intended to send and the one that was actually received, it was blocked or distorted by a barrier. There are plenty of them to be on the watch for. Any of these sound familiar in your recent interactions with coworkers?
- You make assumptions about what the person intends.
- Your bias about the message-sender clouds your understanding of the message.
- Noise prevents you from hearing everything clearly, but you figure you have the “gist” of what the person wanted you to know.
- You drift in and out of paying attention because you have other, more pressing matters, weighing on your mind.
- The person accidentally pushes one of your hot buttons, and you fall deep into you own emotional reaction.
- You just can’t find a reason to care, so don’t pay attention.
While these are just a few of the barriers that will derail your communication efforts, there are many others. To prevent misunderstanding and increase solid connections; it’s critical to do the following:
- Be aware of the barriers that exist in any communication situation. Before sending a message ask yourself this simple question, “What might cause the other party to not understand what I intend?”
- Take whatever action you can to eliminate or minimize those barriers which are within your control.
- Never assume the message has been accurately received without confirming that to be the case. Check understanding using a back and forth process of feedback with the other party.
Communication is far more difficult than it appears. Recognizing that is an important first step towards becoming a more effective communicator.