Leading Ideas: The Problem with Communication

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish playwright and essayist

Last week I visited with a client who was fuming about mistake a staff member had made. She claimed the staff member didn’t listen to her directions. I asked her how she was so sure it wasn’t her fault for not communicating them clearly? She cracked a smile and said, “just trust me it wasn’t.”


Something to consider:

Communication occurs when someone understands you – not when you speak. Don’t mistake speaking for communication. Words are merely the tip of the iceberg. They’re what the world gets to see. What they don’t get to see is the thinking that lies below the surface of the water. And as such, they don’t always understand where you’re coming from even if they hear your words.

To be an effective communicator, expose the logic of how you got to your conclusions. Let people see your thinking. Ask them to repeat your ideas back to you so you can be sure they understand you. And do the same for them. Realize that if you think there’s a chance that you didn’t get your point across you’re probably right.

Something to try:

The next time you want to get an important point across:
1. Take some time to jot down your thinking behind the point.
2. Share the point and the supporting thinking with the other person.
3. Allow the other person to probe into your thinking.
4. Paraphrase each others’ points to one another.
5. Finish by agreeing on how you will stay in communication.
6. Realize that some issues might take more than one conversation to fully communicate.

Question: How do you make sure you’re communicating clearly?