How to handle communication breakdowns
Think about how crucial communication is in business and life in general. We all communicate every single day, whether we intend to or not. Because it is so important and we continuously do it, we also tend to goof it up—often way, way more than we realize. Each day, there are communication breakdowns around us that we aren’t aware of.
If you struggle with this, think about these stats. Every employee survey ever done has come back with communication as an opportunity for improvement. Every client survey ever done has also come back with communication as a frustration, opportunity for improvement, or both.
As the psychologist Paul Watzlawick was once quoted, “One cannot not communicate.” Think about those words: we “cannot” not communicate. That means every single thing we do involves communication, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Now, think about how easy it is for us to have communication breakdowns. The good news is there are two huge areas that we can work on that will dramatically reduce the chances of having communication breakdowns.
If we truly dissect it, all communication breakdowns are driven by two main things: behavior and expectations, behavior meaning the hard-wired behavior we have on things like small talk, details, decisions, etc., and expectations meaning being around the who, what, where, why, when, and how of interactions.
Each person enters into every communication interaction with their own behavioral wiring and their own set of expectations. If we don’t learn to read, understand, and adapt to other people, we are virtually guaranteed to have a communication breakdown.
A common example is behavioral wiring in small talk. Some people are wired and driven to crave small talk with others, and some are totally turned off by it. If these two people are meeting, there is a fundamental disconnect in behavioral wiring. If it is not figured out and dealt with before the meeting, the disconnect will get worse.
Another common example is the expectation of how long a meeting will be. If two people are meeting and one thinks it is a 60-minute meeting, and the other thinks it is just 30 minutes, there is a fundamental disconnect in expectation.
These are only two out of thousands of examples of how behavioral wiring and expectations filter into communication. It spills into every form of communication—in person, on the phone, through text, email, Zoom, etc.
If we don’t learn to read, understand, and adapt these things in communication, we will have breakdowns, which will cause many other issues, such as frustration, anxiety, anger, lost sales, missed opportunities, upset off employees and co-workers, or more challenging things in our personal lives.
Now let me leave you a series of questions to answer:
- Are you fully aware of the things your team and you do (and don’t do) that are most likely to cause communication breakdowns?
- Have you figured out the specific behavioral wiring disconnects and missed expectations that drive those issues?
- Have you quantified what those issues can cost your organization?
- Do you have goals, plans, and action in place to minimize the challenges of each?
If you don’t know or don’t like the answers, find a business growth consultant who can help.
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About Mike Crandall
Mike Crandall lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is a Consultant, Coach, Trainer, Speaker, and Author focused on the Subconscious Psychology of Human Interaction and Motivation. His firm specializes in Elevating Leadership, Management, & Sales Performance for Proactive Business Growth. Mike is based in Oklahoma and serves Visionary Clients across the United States. He can be reached at (405) 844-1700.