It’s Alyssa here, taking over for my dad this week with a few thoughts on miscommunication.
Our perceptions shape our reality. How we interpret a situation is completely dependent upon 2 things: context (prior information) and choice (how we choose to react to new information). It’s for this reason that listening is imperative and the top priority in every interaction.

Listening, is the foundation by which we can aggregate the proper context before choosing how to respond. The second words roll off our tongues we have opened the conversation to the other person’s interpretation. It’s now in their hands to place the context and choose how to react. As such, we need to be sure we are communicating what we think we’re communicating from that start. That begins with getting the right information, otherwise known as listening. It’s not about over analysis of every thing that we say, it’s about making listening a habit and engaging first with the understanding that we may actually be miscommunicating and misunderstanding far more often than we’d prefer to think.

Here’s an illustration:

My dad and I are incredibly alike. Fortunately, I can say that with much more confidence now than when I was 16. Alike as we are, our communication styles are vastly different. This fact was made apparent to both of us on a recent family vacation.

My dad wakes up at 4:30am every morning, it’s how he keeps his routine while traveling for work. So when I wandered leisurely downstairs at 7:00am and was instantly faced with a spit-fire round of questions, “What is your plan for the day?”, “How did you sleep?”, “Do you want to catch the 9:30 shuttle?”, my initial reaction was to shudder. That then served as the catalyst for more reaction from him (I’m sure you can relate to this scenario in some way, shape, or form if there is more than 1 person in your household). Admittedly, it wasn’t until the 3rd day of our trip that I realized my reaction to his barrage of questions was ultimately, a choice. I could either choose to react in a way that provided him the context to react somewhat negatively, or I could choose to take what I know about my dad–that he had already been up for 3 hours, had 2 cups of coffee, and taken at least 1 call–and be somewhat gracious in my response. At the very least, I could choose to give him the information he needed to adjust his communication as well–no questions for 30 minutes from the time my coffee is poured.

It may seem an elementary example, but this type of miscommunication happens in the workplace consistently, especially when family business is involved. Whether we consciously think about it or not, we all have a natural communication style that we default to. If we don’t appreciate it about ourselves, we can’t appreciate it in others and if we aren’t aware of others, we miscommunicate. Projects get missed, expectations aren’t met, and people harbor contempt. Miscommunication hurts teams and in turn, the bottom line.

Your reaction is as much a choice as it is a response. Choosing to listen first and provide more information when necessary is the simplex way to mediate situations. It takes effort on our part to approach a situation with the ability to listen and evaluate context before choosing how we react.

Here are a few #thoughtstarters to evaluate and focus your reaction index this week:

  1. What interaction are you least proud of last week? Did you listen for enough context before responding?
  2. In what interaction were you most proud of your communication last week? What did you do differently?

And in your interactions with others, think about the following:

  1. What has this person had going on that I’m aware of lately? Might it be influencing how they are choosing to communicate with me at the moment?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Make it a great week,