How to Avoid a Communication Breakdown

I was working with a large group of leaders recently on the topic of communication. I warned them up front that the information that they are about to see is not difficult to learn; in fact, I said most of them already knew everything I was about to tell them. A sense of confusion came over the group. I asked for patience until we got into the material, and I was granted that wish.

Within the first five minutes of the presentation, I watched the confusion turn to guilt as the team realized that we were discussing some elementary communication foundational truths but they were not doing them.

“Did you know that approximately 85 percent of our success is not due to our education, our commitment or our ambition, but rather to how well we communicate,” I asked them. That got their attention, and for the rest of the meeting, they were able to see some of the fundamental truths about communication they were not doing consistently. As the time went on and the group opened up, we found people that struggle with things like:

  • Not interrupting others
  • Forming an opinion before all the facts have been gathered
  • Communicating their agenda to others before finding out the agenda of the person that they are talking to
  • Trying to convince others to do something rather than have them discover it on their own
  • Staying positive
  • Rewarding others for doing something right rather than trying to catch them doing something wrong

We worked through these things, and they felt much better moving forward. So I ask you to look at some of these same issues in your own life to see how well you are doing with this list. This was not taught to me in school – I think it was just assumed that you were born with all this knowledge already built into you.

I am not sure about you, but I think the opposite is true. We are naturally built with the need to interrupt, we tend to form an opinion very early in a discussion, and we seem to struggle with being positive at all times. In addition, I think we tend to prefer to catch others’ wrongdoing (speed traps), and we see most people trying to convince others to do it their way.

It takes work to be good at communicating properly. Yet most seem to assume that others will acclimate to our style. This is potentially dangerous of us to think this way. We all sell something, so to assume that the listener (buyer) will just put their needs and their personality aside and go with yours can get us into deep trouble.

If you think that you have mastered these, I dare you to ask someone around you if this is the case. Most of the time, we have a scotoma (blind spot) when it comes to our communication with others. We would do well to ask others to hold us accountable in this.

I closed the meeting with a challenge that I will leave with you. Find someone that you can have as an accountability buddy and see if they will come along side of you and help you with your struggle. Answer this to your accountability partner – “My biggest struggle when communicating is…” – and have them help you along.

It will help you more than you can ever imagine…your team will love you, those that communicate with you will have a new respect for you and most of all, you will gain the confidence needed to far exceed even your own expectations…I dare you!

1 reply
  1. Susan says:

    Success and communication go hand-in-hand! Not only the words we use within our companies and communities, but how we treat the flow of information necessary to successfully complete the project.

    I would be interested in learning more about your reference to catching each others’ wrongdoings or speed traps. My personal approach is to let that go or to think that I know what they meant but I see others pointing out every little nuance of error. It is an interesting behavior and I’m wondering what the motivation is behind that. If you could share more I would find it helpful.

    My guess would be that we all think that we are good at communicating and we may need some help or direction in learning how we are perceived by others. Then we could begin working towards improving our approach. I’ll bet you would know how to help with that.

    Great article Dave; thank you!

    Reply

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