Poor communication is almost always at the root of troubles in any organisation or team.
Too often there is an over reliance on giving presentations to share messages, or sending out an all staff email. Both of which have their place, of course. They simply can’t be the only method.
Communication with your colleagues takes time. You have to be prepared to talk to people individually. You have to be prepared to hear what they have to say and learn what is important.
You may have to change how you deliver a message depending on your audience.
But you know all of this right?
Communication. The word comes from Latin commūnicāre, meaning “to share”. The definition is ‘the act of conveying intended meaning from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and rules’.
For me, therein lies the problem. All too often we don’t check the understanding of what we have said. We don’t make sure that we have been understood in the way that we meant.
We are so busy getting the message out that we forget to think about how that message will be heard, and how it will vary from individual to individual.
Likewise, if we are at the receiving end, do we stop to check our understanding? Do we question our own understanding? Or, do we go straight off into dizzy world of questions, concerns about the impact on ourselves?
Understanding of others, and their understanding of us is the missing component.
I am going to contradict myself now and suggest that in fact it’s not poor communication, but poor understanding, that is the real problem.
The way we understand what we see and hear is different for every one of us. Each and everyone of us have our own world map. Our map of the world is not the same as anyone else’s.
My map of the world is based on my filters. My personality, my upbringing, my culture and education all have a bearing on how I view the world and all around me. It has been shaped by my experiences. It will vary over time and will dependent on my state of mind at any given time.
Everyone that I come in to contact with will have their own map of the world. It will be different and it will impact on what we understand when we are sharing information.
If we stop and think about that it’s a wonder that we manage to communicate effectively at all!
Here’s the thing, all of our maps have some common ground. We need to get to the place where we find that common ground more quickly.
To understand effectively we need to take the time to find out a little about what someone else’s map looks like. To ask the right questions to find out where the common ground is. To work out the differences.
The only way we can do that is to go beyond listening and work on noticing.
Noticing differences and the common ground, then adjusting our own approach to match the other person’s needs takes practice. It means caring enough about the other person that you want to make it easy for them to understand you.
Noticing is about…
What is being said.
What is not being said.
Asking the right questions.
How it is being said – tone, the facial expressions.
How am I feeling about this and how is it affecting my responses.
What are the patterns, the common themes.
It’s about not jumping to conclusions based on our own world map!
It is about putting yourself in the other person’s world. To do that you have to have spent some time getting to know their world.
If you have a team of 10 people, that means getting to understand 10 different worlds. It also means helping those people to understand yours.
That way you have a fighting chance of understanding. If you have a better understanding of each other, your conversations will be better understood.
All of a sudden that team meeting, pushing out information to different people needs a bit more thought!
Once you recognise that everyone has a different understanding of what you say you can find more effective methods of communicating with those individuals. Follow up conversations will be necessary picking up on the aspects that you know individuals will be worrying about.
It’s a simple as caring how your team mates are going to interpret what you have to say and anticipating their need to understand it in their world.
Busy managers will say they don’t have the time to do this. A good leader will find the time.
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