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Communication is Hard and How to Improve It

Image by Susanne Jutzeler Schweiz from Pixabay.com Communication is hard. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things in the world to do on a consistent basis. Therefore, we must work at it every day. Misunderstandings, words taken out of context, mixed messages and missed messages, all add to the difficulty of communication. For verbal […]

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Image by Susanne Jutzeler Schweiz from Pixabay.com

Communication is hard. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things in the world to do on a consistent basis. Therefore, we must work at it every day.

Misunderstandings, words taken out of context, mixed messages and missed messages, all add to the difficulty of communication.

For verbal communication to be successful, there must be a dialogue where all parties involved have a clear understanding of what is expected, and the results indicate the understanding was mutual.

Whenever desired results are not achieved after one or more conversations, frustrations mount. You can often hear comments like, “I’ve told him over and over.” “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times.” “She’s not listening to me.” “He doesn’t hear a word I’m saying.” “What will it take for you to understand what I want?” and the list goes on.

Miscommunication happens with just about everyone we converse with, including our children, spouses, co-workers, supervisors, employees, and friends.

Miscommunication can result from one of many things. Too many to list them all. One of the most frequent causes is not realizing we “hear in pictures.” For example, I can hear my wife ask me to take out the trash. I immediately visualize the cans outside needing to be moved to the street for pickup. In reality, she was talking about the can under the sink. When I take out the cans to the street, thinking I heard correctly and she looks under the sink, I soon realize I didn’t hear correctly.

Another frequent cause of miscommunication is thinking we understand what a person is saying before they finish their thought. This example could be my wife asking me to “take out” and I reply no problem before she finishes. This time I know it’s the trash under the sink she’s talking about. It’s not until I come home that evening to discover it was the lasagna in the freezer that she wanted me to take out that I realize I wasn’t listening.

Miscommunication is truly universal. No one is immune to it. We all can give examples of when someone misunderstood us, as well as examples of when we misunderstood others.

Knowing that communication is hard, and we must work daily to improve, I want to share a few steps that can help to minimize misunderstandings and prevent them from escalating into bigger problems. These steps can work on the giving and receiving ends of verbal interactions.

The first step is to realize we all learn differently. Each of us learn by what we see, what we hear, and what we experience. While we learn from all three (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), each of us has one way that is stronger than the other two.

Prior to hiring individuals, I ask them, how do you learn best? Do you prefer to receive verbal instructions and you can do it? Do you prefer to see someone do it first and then you can do it? Or do you need to put your hands on it and work through it yourself before you can do it? Almost everyone can tell you how they learn best with little thought involved.

We also must be precise in what we are communicating. For example, instead of saying, “will you please take out the trash?” For better communication, say “will you please take out the trash under the sink and check the trash cans in the bathrooms?”

Another step to communicating what you want done and to insure it continues without you is the “show one, do one, teach one” process. In this example, you visually “show someone” what you want done as you are explaining. Most of us do this. The breakdown happens when we say, “Do you have any questions? Or “Got it?” and the other person replies with “no questions” or “yes, I understand.” To eliminate frustration and further miscommunication, take the next phase and have the individual “do one.” In other words, have the individual demonstrate to you the complete understanding of what it is you want done so you can see the desired results. It is the desired results that let you know you were heard and understood. The third phase “teach one” is what cements your desired results. When someone has learned something new, let the individual immediately teach someone else. It is through teaching that the process becomes cemented in the individual’s mind and motor skills. When you can see your student teach another student, then you know the learning can continue without you, as long as they all follow the “show one, do one, teach one” process. (This works great with employees teaching new employees, as well as in the household, with teaching the oldest sibling to empty the dishwasher, and then having the older one teach the younger sibling, etc.)

When you find that explaining, begging, and pleading, are not getting you desired results, instead of yelling (it’s not a hearing problem, it’s an understanding problem), it’s important how to approach the situation to get your desired results.

Instead of discussing what the other person is doing to you, put the miscommunication on you. You must take responsibility for the situation. It’s fine to explain how you are feeling. Instead of saying “You are frustrating me,” you should say, “I feel frustrated.”

When you start with “you are” you are blaming. It likely is not what they are intending! When you say “I am” they may apologize and explain that’s not what they are trying to do. Regardless, with “I am” you are not blaming. This allows the other person to listen rather than plan a defense.

After sharing how you feel, explain all the ways you have tried to communicate. At that point, admit, you feel like you are failing in communicating effectively. After taking responsibility, sharing all the ways you have tried, then ask the individual, what can you do, to help them, better understand what you want accomplished. Then listen. Really listen.

By following the steps above to get your message across, to communicate your desired results, and to accept responsibility when your efforts have failed, you open the door for more opportunities at success, for individuals to share things you may not have thought of yourself.

Remember, there is greatness within you. You must choose greatness. It won’t develop on its own. I believe in you!

“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell

Take Action Today!

If you would like assistance with improving your communication, I can help you. We can meet by phone, on Zoom, or in a place you deem safe with social distancing. Whether you choose me or someone else, a coach will expedite your results.

If you found value in this article, please like and share. You never know who else in your network may find it valuable. Thank you!

I appreciate you. I know your time is limited and I hope you receive value in reading my posts. 

I also invite you to connect with me. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, by email at  [email protected]  or through my website at www.bryanbalch.com. Thank you!  

I always look forward to your thoughts and replies.

Published by Bryan M. Balch, Results Coach

Helping Individuals and Businesses Achieve Desired Results

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