We talk about the importance of communication, yet are we getting any closer to solving our communication problems? All too often, the answer is "No". Well I'm here to say, "Enough is enough." Are you with me?
Good. Because here is what I'm really saying - enough is enough. In other words, as a specialist in communication and conflict resolution, I can tell you that the biggest problems I find in business, among teams, and within families, occurs when one, both or all parties fail to pay attention to whether or not enough information has actually been exchanged. How could you know when this is happening? Read on:
1. You can tell the other person is "giving in" to you - or you are giving in to them. Often done to avoid an argument or lengthy discussion, this situation occurs when we try to get things done without over-questioning or over-explaining. Things may seem fine as work is getting done and things are being handled. However, the long term result is that the party who "gives in" makes assumptions about the other person and the reason for their requests. They may see him or her as difficult, unreasonable, or even foolish. Over time respect is lost and the relationship is damaged.
2. You unexpectedly get resistance over something - Similar to the situation above, this time the other person isn't giving in, but is in some way pushing back. S/he may be quietly avoiding work that should be done, pushing your buttons by asking questions you see as unnecessary, or repeatedly doing something the "wrong" way. You may feel frustrated or angry with this person's attitude or behavior. Over time this resistance may reach to a level of insubordination and discipline.
3. You find yourself telling the other person to "Just do it" - Perhaps you've learned to expect resistance over a particular request or by a specific individual. Rather than enter into a discussion you give a straight-forward order. You may see this as the fastest way to get from point A to point B, but at what cost? While intended to cut out some of the problems above, instead this type of communication complicates things further. A direct order demonstrates a lack of trust in the recipient's ability to make decisions or think things through. In business this causes employee dissatisfaction and in any situation erodes positive elements of the relationship.
4. You sense the other person's unspoken confusion, annoyance, or frustration - Perhaps you are savvy enough to recognize these signs of resistance, but are you addressing them? Have you truly unveiled the problems that lead to those feelings? Most of the time we take the shortest route for getting something done, and instead of entering into a discussion about the task, request, etc., we respond by allowing one of the three prior scenarios to take hold. Or, we do seek to address the issue, but allow it to be closed even when we aren't sure that the problem has been solved - only that the effort has been made.
In all of these situations, "enough" did not happen. The best of intentions did not lead to the best results. Instead, communication was stilted, incomplete, compromised, or completely ignored. To improve communication, you must be sure that the information exchange also answered the question, "Why?" In other words, why is this needed, why should it be done this way, and/or why are you resisting the request that was made?