Whether it’s your business or personal life one thing will always remain the constant of success. Our ability to communicate is the hinge that allows doors to open or becomes the rusty fixture that jams our best efforts.
In today’s world it seems communication has become a lost art. Today’s market consists of the greatest minds and technology we’ve ever known yet it seems we’ve forgotten the basics. Conversations have been replaced with text messages. The majority of our daily coorespondence is communicated through e-mail. Areas that once relied heavily on the “personal-touch” such as customer service and marketing have now become automated nightmares.
The problem is that in our throw-away society, we’ve replaced communication with convenience.
How many of you have received a text on your phone that left you wondering, “What did they mean by that?” Our problem is that we’ve begun to rely so heavily on the words, we’ve forgotten the relationships behind them. Research has shown that words only make up 7% of our communication. The other 93% is comprised of gestures and tones. I’m sure you’ve all sat through one of those meetings where the individual presenting said all the right things but the tone, or lack there of, derailed the entire presentation before it ever began. The truth is that our words hold very little weight if we can’t get them across effectively.
Lack of communication results in the disfunction or organizations, families, and marriages. Here are three common pitfalls and what you can do to avoid them.
- Unrealistic Expectations: It’s not always so much that we fail to communicate expectations to employees and those we have relationships with, it’s that our expectations have more to do with satisfying our own desires and ego. Too often we have a picture in mind of how the relationship should flow. When our selfish expectations aren’t met, we feel disappointed and even at times, betrayed. A client shows interest in a service then months later still hasn’t committed. We feel like they’re wasting our time. Rather than nurturing the relationship and remaining supportive we’re tempted to change our tone. “Do something already!” The problem isn’t them. The problem is we’ve made an assumption. Do you know why soon-to-be-wed couples rarely seek pre-marital counseling? It’s because they don’t want someone to walk in and burst their bubble. In their minds eye they have a picture of how the next few decades should play out and the last thing they need is someone to put them in check. Divorce is what happens to other people. Our expectations are unrealistic but if it satisfies our ego and it feels good, it’s tough to let go. Whether in business or personal relationships it’s important to remember that we’re there to serve, not to be served. The less you make it about you, the easier it will be to manage your own expectations.
- Lack of Preparation: How often have you sat down prior to a conversation or business meeting and outlined not only what you wanted to say, but mapped out how you wanted to say it. I typically see parties walk into a room, each with their own agenda, and watch as the conversation quickly spirals down a rabbit hole. When conflict arises in the workplace or at home a simple outline can save you a ton of headache or maybe even a night on the couch. First, name the issue at hand. It’s important to be clear what the root problem is. Next, provide a specific example of the behavior and explain how you perceive their actions or your emotions. Clarify what’s at stake and why it is important to you personally or to your organization. Be open and honest if you’ve contributed to the issue in any way. Sharing in responsibility will help the other party come a long way. Everyone is more willing to meet in the middle when they’re not carrying the blame entirely. Lastly, communicate your desire to resolve the issue and most importantly, hear them out. Nothing is more harmful to the process than a one-way conversation. Here’s an example. (John, you’re crew has been running a spark producing saw in a potential gas environment without a permit. I feel like you don’t value the safety of our operation or respect the policies we have in place. Without a permit, we could potentially open a valve in your area and seriously injure or kill your crew. I’m sorry if I didn’t explain the permitting process before or why it’s critical to our operation. I want to get this ironed out to keep you all as safe as possible while we work together. What can I do to help?) Although this example is pretty bland, it’s a real conversation I’ve had with severe consequences if not communicated effectively.
- Credibility: The days of, “Do as I say, not as I do.”, are long gone. In order to influence relationships we must have credibility. It’s impossible to lead and have a voice when others have seen you contradict your own words. Spilling lines about safety, efficiency, and integrity are useless if you’ve failed to embody any of the above. Telling men to do what’s right and follow procedures doesn’t hold water if you’re the first person to cut corners when the pressure is on. During my first tour in Afghanistan, disarming improvised explosive devices, we had specific procedure designed to keep us as safe as possible throughout the process. Halfway through our tour, before making an approach on a known device, a junior team member of mine asked why I had decided to address the device manually when I could use a robotic platform to do the same job. My only reasoning was that it was hot and this would be much faster. Bottom line; I was wrong. By the grace of God I was fortunate enough to have brothers who cared less about my title than getting me home to my family in one piece. I realized my error, backed down and did things right. Although not many words were said a great deal of communication had taken place. I was about to lose my credibility as a safe operator and my team members were assertive enough to call me out. If I had followed through because it was more convenient, my guys may have questioned every decision I made from then on. If they hadn’t been bold, I may have suffered the consequences. Ultimately, communication is nothing without integrity.