I’ve heard in the past that 90% of all problems (business and personal) can be attributed to a failure in communication, and my guess is that the other 10% are failures to understand what causes the failures in communication. As I begin 2013, my goal is to communicate better with my clients, friends, and family by addressing the things that typically lead to miscommunications, which in turn, create major issues.
What’s the phrase for assumptions? An assumption makes an a** out of you and me. I have no idea where this phrase originated or even why I say it so much, but as an adult I still am quite fond of this simple, yet effective message. It happens too often that one person assumes knowledge that the other person does not know. Or someone without knowledge fails to admit it and tries to fake their way through the situation for fear of being found ignorant.
Simple fix: Ask if you don’t know and alternatively make sure the other person knows what you are talking about.
Nowadays there are so many different ways to communicate. When someone doesn’t reply and days roll by without an answer, the tendency is to start thinking the worst. “They have bad news.” “They hate me!” “They found another agency.” “I must be annoying.” None of which are true, but you feel the need to fill in the silence with some answer. And eventually the answer turns volcanic, at least in our minds.
Simple fix: Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is guilty of over-extending at some point in their careers and it’s easy to read an email with intentions of replying at a later time and forgetting. Simple reminders are important and key to eliminating these types of miscommunications.
Your Style & Tone
Have you ever read an email and thought, “WOW! Why is (insert name here) being so rude?” This happens far too often, which explains why online flame wars are infamously common. Email is at a disadvantage since it lacks the sensory richness of a face-to-face conversation. In a face-to-face conversation, we can judge the tone of the conversation by evaluating body language, gestures, and tone of voice. So, when we are left with only the words in an email, we are left to interpret the tone of the email in a vacuum.
Simple fix: Email can sound stern and unyielding, even angry, in tone. So before assuming the tone of the message, grant a measure of grace. The ease of email makes it simple to fire off something without adding a couple filters.
What barriers to communication have you found and are committed to eliminating in 2013?