Monday, June 1, 2009

Uncover Communication Problems


While I am often asked about the most common problems I see in working with businesses, I doubt it will surprise you to learn that most problems stem from issues related to communication. In fact, it is probably a concern in your workplace as well. The challenge then is in identifying what communication issues are creating a problem.

Communication problems stem from a wide variety of issues, with each situation as unique as the persons struggling with it. As a result, uncovering the exact cause of a breakdown and finding the right steps for improving the situation frequently requires the services of an expert.

To help you in your efforts of finding and resolving such problems, I will selectively focus on three of the top underlying issues that lead to a breakdown in communication and damage working and interpersonal relationships.

1. Style of communicating

People who operate in a confrontational or avoidant manner unintentionally create a collapse in communication. Their communication style may actually lead to bullying or overpowering their cohort (confrontational behavior); or in contrast their discomfort in communication may lead to a failure to share vital information or concerns (avoidant behavior). Each style is problematic on its own, but put two persons of opposing styles together and the situation become much more damaging. Adding to the problem, communication styles are deeply ingrained and not easy to change.

2. Hoarding information

Often times people share only a portion of what they know. This may be done to save time or to limit the knowledge of the recipient. This communication malady is usually a top-down problem as it correlates with a desire to maintain power. At a minimum hoarding behavior impacts teamwork and productivity as information and awareness of the "big picture" are compromised. Over time this behavior erodes trust, leading to other costly problems.

3. Rumors and Reputation

Expectations color our behaviors. Therefore a preconceived notion, a history of bad experiences, or other similar circumstances will change the way we view a person. If this is someone with whom we must work and communicate, our beliefs about the other person can easily create a roadblock and affect the business itself. When rumors or reputation are at play the listener often hears more (or less) than the speaker is actually saying. S/he may infer other non-communicated details as well.

By identifying the cause of communication problems, you can begin staging improvements, ultimately creating a happier, healthier, and more productive work environment.

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