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Is Poor Communication Hurting Your Business?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

-George Burnard Shaw


Communication is so simple conceptually. It is the practice that can be challenging, especially when we are pressured for time, or must communicate with a ‘difficult’ person.

So often in recent years, in our drive for efficiency in all aspects of business including communication, we have neglected effectiveness.

Yet excellent communication is critical in every aspect of business:

  • for inductions
  • for effective internal meetings
  • to write clear and effective emails
  • to enable successful meetings with clients
  • for dealing appropriately with conflict

The list goes on, because conversations are, in fact, the basic unit of currency for business. Getting them right boosts your bottom line, getting them wrong is hugely detrimental.

Communication is a cycle, so nothing has been communicated until you have received feedback from the receiver, indicating that they have understood the message as you intended it.

Frequently there is no reply to an email request until the task has been completed. If the message was understood correctly, and acted on correctly, the task arrives and is complete and correct. Both parties are satisfied. However, if the message was not completely understood the task arrives incomplete or incorrect, and both parties feel dissatisfied, perhaps even frustrated or angry.

When we write an email, the message is usually followed immediately by our signature. There is no attempt to check that the message has been understood, or accepted, or committed to. No wonder we are frequently disappointed by our poor communication – which we often prefer to call someone else’s lack of skill or lack of understanding, or even lack of common sense.

When we do attempt to check, via email, that the message has been understood as we intended, we tend to write our instructions or message and then ask closed questions or make statements unlikely to elicit a response. We make statements like ‘Please call or email if you have any questions.’ When we don’t receive any questions we assume that the message has been correctly understood and that the task has been committed to.

However, research and our own anecdotal experiences tell us that people often don’t ask questions, even when they are unsure about some aspects of the task and therefore have some questions! Often people don’t want to appear incompetent or lacking in confidence so they don’t ask; rather, they hope that their assumptions will be right or that they will ‘be able to figure it out’ as they progress with the task.

Knowing the techniques for excellent communication is not enough, we must use those techniques and use them with the specific receiver in mind, to gain the outcomes we desire. There is both science and art in communication – it is important to master both aspects.

To your team’s success,