Have you ever had a situation where you’ve been communicating with one of your colleagues and you felt as if what you were saying was crystal clear?
You left the conversation feeling aligned and excited to make progress, only to check back in a week or two later to find out that there was actually a complete disconnect?
This is more common than you think.
In fact, recent research by The We Institute discovered that nine out of ten conversations didn’t actually hit the mark, which is pretty scary when you think of how much time we spend in meetings and communicating with people.
So what is it that actually causes this disconnect? Why are so many conversations happening that aren’t quite hitting the mark?
Here we’ll dissect why your conversations might not be as effective as you think they are, and share three key tips you can implement to optimise every interaction you have with your colleagues.
Reason 1: Lack of psychological safety
At its core, psychological safety means creating an environment where people feel comfortable speaking their truth.
Miscommunication often occurs when people tell you what they think you want to hear as opposed to what’s really going on in their mind, because they’re afraid of being judged or afraid of the consequences that might come with speaking the truth.
The irony here is that usually the consequences of having a conversation that isn’t completely transparent are actually a lot more detrimental.
Reason 2: We’re making too many assumptions
Everyone naturally makes assumptions based on their own reality of the world and what is happening around them.
If you go to see a film with a friend, chances are when debriefing you’d both find you had slightly or even vastly different takes on it.
While this is a positive thing most of the time – it’s essential to have different perspectives in business – it can also create communication issues.
What you took away from the conversation could be completely disconnected from how someone else interpreted it, which might impact the next steps you both take.
Three Simple Tips to Help You Optimise Communication
Tip 1: Create an environment where people feel safe and there’s a high level of trust
For people to be able to really speak the truth they need to feel as if they are in an environment where they won’t feel judged.
Simple ways to build up this level of trust with your fellow employees include suspending judgement, assuming positive intent and being genuinely curious.
If you focus on building trusting relationships with the people around you, as opposed to relationships based on ego or fear, you will find yourself naturally having more effective conversations.
We dive deeper into building trust as a leader in this blog post.
Tip 2: Listen to learn and connect
One of the biggest communication mistakes people make is listening with the sole purpose of responding. As a conversation is taking place whoever is involved is so concerned with leading the conversation and deciding what they’ll say next, that they actually forget to listen to and internalise what is being said in the first place.
Focus on shifting this paradigm next time you are having a conversation with someone. By listening to learn you are more likely to connect with the person you are speaking to.
This level of connection will create a heightened sense of trust and safety, meaning that both parties are more likely to speak the truth.
Tip 3: Clarify and confirm understanding
Never walk away from a conversation without clarifying and confirming that yourself and whoever you are talking to are on the same page.
This simple step will prevent things falling through the gaps as a result of assumptions that might have been made.
For example, if you’re discussing a new project that you’re working on with someone in your team, make sure you wrap the conversation by chatting through the next steps and confirming who is responsible for actioning what you have discussed.
Otherwise there’s a high chance, you could both assume the other person is taking ownership and nothing will get done, or you’ll both take ownership creating an unnecessary double up in work.
Julie Mackay, our Associate Director, dives into this topic on a deeper level in the video below.