Communication breakdowns often occur in the office, on-the-go, and in our personal relationships, for various reasons. And the effects of failed communication can be very damaging. Whether the problem is due to people not speaking up or from not listening intently, here are some tips for overcoming these communication breakdowns:
-Try not to rush. If you sound rushed and distracted when you say something, people may think you are not interested or feel offended, because it seems like they are unimportant to you.† If you do happen to be rushed, provide the other person with a brief explanation that you are very busy with something now, but do want to talk with later, so either you or they can contact you again.
-Confirm you’re on the same page. Often breakdowns occur because someone has false assumptions about someone or about something they expect someone to do and communicate based on those assumptions.†† For example, a boss or co-worker assumes you already know something or you will be taking on a particular role or responsibility, when you arenít.† In this case, it is best to confirm in conversation or in a memo or e-mail what you expect someone to do or what you understand they want you to do.† Then, if they donít understand something the same way, they should tell you, so you are both on the same page.
-Encourage questions. Another reason for a communication breakdown is that someone doesnít say something or ask for clarification because they donít want to appear stupid; they feel shy or uncomfortable asking or explaining something; they want to be diplomatic by not bringing up a subject that might make others uncomfortable.† Or perhaps a person doesnít want to admit he or she wasnít listening or didnít understand something, and hopes to figure it out later.†† The approach to use here is to make the other person feel comfortable and safe to ask questions, even if he or she thinks he or she should know that.† Conversely, if you are unsure or unclear about something, ask.† If the boss seems hard to approach, try asking a co-worker.† Or try feeding back what you do understand and invite the other person to fill in what he or she also wants you to do.
-Practice active listening. Communication breakdowns also occur when people donít allow time for others to ask questions or donít take time to listen carefully to others themselves.† For example, a boss gives everyone instructions on what to do, but not everyone understands.† Or an employee doesnít listen closely when instructions are given.† A tip here is to make sure everyone has understood what you have just explained and invite them to ask questions if they donít understand something.† Another approach is to invite someone to provide a brief recap of what they think you said.† Conversely, if you are listening to instructions, actively engage your mind so you really listen.† For example, imagine yourself doing what you will be doing, as the other person talks. And afterwards, be ready to ask for clarification or examples if there is anything you donít understand.
For more ideas on overcoming conflicts and communication problems, you can see some chapters fromDisagreements, Disputes, and All-Out War†at†www.workingwithhumans.com.
Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D. is the author of over 50 books and a seminar and workshop leader, specializing in work relationships and professional and personal development.† Her latest books include†Want It, See It, Get It and†Enjoy! 101 Little Ways to Add Fun to Your Work Everyday, both from AMACOM.† Giniís Websites are: www.workwithgini.com†and†www.ginigrahamscott.com.
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