Learning to Communicate

Question: How many times have you been at work and learned that you had to communicate with someone you don’t like? How many times has a name come to mind and you sort of roll your eyes? You think to yourself, “Oh, great! I have to deal with this one now!” How many times have you lost your patience when trying to explain yourself at work to someone who claims to know your job; yet, they truly have no idea what they are doing. Sound familiar?

I find people are often mixed between the connotation and the denotation of simple words. It is true that words have meaning. However, it is also true that sometimes the interpretation of words does not match the intention of what was said. Communication is not always an easy thing at the job site. Especially now with everything written in either texts or emails. It is easy to misread or misinterpret and misunderstand the mood in someone’s thoughts. This is where we often jump to conclusions because there is no mood in a written voice; it is unemotional. Therefore, messaging is everything and we have to be painfully careful with our language. Otherwise, our misperceptions grow into misrepresentations of us and the people we work with.

More and more, it is clear that there needs to be attention focused on education and awareness of our tones and our use of language. This is so with both written messages and verbal communication. It is clear that intentions do not always match interpretations and yes, corporate wars have been started and fought, all due to misunderstandings and the lack of sensitivity in a text or email. In fact, people have lost their positions due to misunderstandings. And sure, there’s always a labor attorney out there looking for their next case. But does anybody want something like this?

Another assumption that brings matters into a blurry light is when we assume that our interpretations are always accurate. In which case, we fail to seek clarity. This can lead to problems in the workplace. Remember something: Opinion is opinion. Fact is fact. And of course, interpretation is subjective. But this is work, right? We have a job to do. We can’t be worried about everything we say. Who wants to walk around on eggshells or worry about the constant pressure of an HR executive approaching them with a serious expression? Just get the job done. Am I right?

I was in a class where they discussed the importance of communication and interpretation.  In fact, I use similar exercises in my presentations. I use a blank sheet of paper that is folded and ripped. Each person in the presentation is given the same blank sheet of paper. They are all given the same directions but in the end, everyone comes up with a specifically unique result.
In this program, I was used as one of the volunteers. My job was to describe the design of several different boxes that were organized on a page. I was to tell someone what I saw and with only my words and instructions; there was a person who drew what I instructed.

I have done several exercises like this before. And to be honest, I have been working on improving my communication skills to the point where the presenter mentioned they’d never heard anyone describe the design like this. In all, the end result was close to 85-90% accurate. However, I can see where this exercise is useful. The rarity of cohesion between people in communication is common. In fact, miscommunication is often a problem in the work environment. We assume and we think. We have ideas and our own mix of what we “Thought” someone was trying to say. Hence, this is the reason for the exercise.

There are challenges with communication. There are biases and assumptions that often mislead us into assuming an entirely different picture. Secondly, there is often a problem in relaying information while training new hires and new employees whose anxieties on the first day can (and will) often be intimidating.

There is a forgotten sense of humanity in the working world. Of course, there are deadlines. There are jobs to do. There’s work and there are people who need to be on the ball. There’s money on the line. There are those whose talents outweigh their personalities and others whose personality are worth nurturing their lack of skill. But more, this is work. We don’t have time for a peace treaty.

This is our job, day in and day out. We have emails and supervisors to deal with. We have facts to check and programs to complete. We have orders to take and tasks to fulfill. Not to mention, there are only so many hours in the day.
There is so much out of our hands and yet, we still have to maneuver as if everything is within our control.
We have to wait for a response from an email. How many times have you said, “I’m waiting for a call back?”
Or, maybe we have to wait for a delivery. Maybe there is a team member who is out sick and the information we need is in their files. Or, how about this; maybe there are errors in our work and this sets us back. Maybe our work is holding up a completion date. And in fairness, the list of variables and challenges in the workplace are literally endless. To which I say, this is all just another day in the life.

The question before anything else becomes how can we get through the day with at least a modicum of sanity and satisfaction? How do we work with others that do not seem to relate or understand? Or, more popularly, how do we find a sense of cultural competency to speak and interact with someone when there is a language or cultural barrier?

These frustrations are nothing new. However, it is clear to keep in mind (and I repeat) that not everyone thinks on the same level. Not everyone interprets or understands the same way. We are all perfectly unique and individual. The idea of unit cohesion and team synergy starts with the ability of leadership and the implementation of strong communication skills.

I love starting my education and empowerment seminars with interactive exercises that allow for an eye-opening but simple way to detail the fact that we are all human. We all have our own unique fashions that if nurtured and valued, we can learn to work together. This does not mean that all unmatchable workers can work together. However, if all workers are open to improving team goals, this is a strong start in a new future of communication.

If we are open, we can learn new and improved ways to offer our levels of communication to improve our relationships and above all—we can work to avoid the miscommunications between coworkers and teammates.

There was a time when we all started out and didn’t know what to do next. There was a time when our mistakes were enough to drive our supervisors crazy—and of course, there are times when supervisors lose their temper because what they see is so simple—but to the new staff or the less experienced eye, not everything is as simple. At least, not yet.

And by the way, yelling only leads to you being heard.
People will hear you.
Doesn’t mean they’ll listen though.
But they’ll definitely hear you.

So which would you rather be?
Listened to?
Or heard?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.