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Too Much Miscommunication at Work? A Simple Fix

The most common source of miscommunication in any workplace is a very simple one: People routinely fail to realize how little they are actually communicating.

communication graphic

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“I’m sure he
understood what I meant.”

“I’m sure it was
obvious.”

“It goes without saying … “

 

The most common
source of miscommunication in any workplace is a very simple one: People
routinely fail to realize how little
they are actually communicating
.
In other words, we think we’ve said a lot more than we actually have.

Psychologists
call this the signal amplification bias
(because we can’t resist slapping esoteric names on things–calling it the
“I’m Sure It Was Obvious” Effect would be much more to the point.)

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Studies show
that the vast majority of us tend to believe that our behavior is much more
expressive than it actually is, and this occurs across a wide variety of
situations.

For instance, we
often think people know when we’re lying–that our discomfort with deception
is obvious–when they rarely have any idea. We also assume that others understand our goals and what
we’re trying to accomplish, when in fact they don’t have the first clue. Most of what we say and do every day is
open to multiple interpretations, and when other people try to figure out what
we really mean, they are apt to guess
wrong.

We are
particularly likely to be “sure it was obvious” with people we know well or who
we’ve worked with for a long time–we assume our thoughts and behaviors are
transparent, when they are far from it.
So, ironically, the risk of miscommunication is greater with a close
colleague than a brand-new coworker.

When we assume
that other people know what we’re thinking, and what we are expecting of them,
we do them a real disservice.
Assuming that we’ve been clear about what we wanted, we blame them when things don’t go as
planned.

The next time
you catch yourself thinking “I didn’t expressly say that to Bob, but it should
be obvious … ” STOP. Nothing is ever
obvious unless you made it obvious by
spelling it out.

Remove the
phrase “It goes without saying” from your mental lexicon, because it is total rubbish. If
something is important, then it goes WITH saying
. Make a point of saying exactly what you mean, and asking for
exactly what you want, and you will be pleasantly surprised by often you get
it.

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Heidi’s new book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals is available wherever books are sold. Follow her on Twitter @hghalvorson.

[Image: Flickr user Wesley Fryer]