Communication (from Latin commūnicāre, meaning “to share”) is the phenomenon of conveying information and meaning through non-verbal, verbal, or written media.
Communication requires a sender, a message, a medium and a recipient, although the receiver does not have to be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver understands the sender’s message.
All of this is good, but what if it doesn’t work that way as intended? My experience is that a lot goes wrong in the communication attempt. These mi9shaps can sabotage personal and organizational goals, threaten organizational morale, and increase production or product costs.
Here are a few communication issues that happen periodically in every organization:
Misinterpretation – This is probably the most common issue. Language is not usually a precision instrument, and we each have an individual way of using it. Consequently, the meaning of a message can vary from one receiver to another. A particular trouble spot for this issue is messages that cross disciplines – such as when someone in technical support talks to someone in marketing – because disciplines tend to have their own languages. In terms of media, there’s a special trouble spot in email, especially in the age of auto-correct. As a message sender, you can reduce problems of misinterpretation by making your messages concise, clear, and pointed. Have a clear idea of how you want the message receiver to respond. As a message receiver, you can minimize misinterpretation by confirming the meaning of a message with the sender.
Inept Listening – I think failure to listen is the number one communication issue in the workplace. We are naturally disposed to treat listening as a passive behavior, but effective listening is an active process. It requires concentration. The techniques of active listening are simple. Note-taking, paraphrasing, and summarizing will all help you focus on your listening and confirm and correct your understanding. You’ll also find that people like being listened to, since it seldom happens in the workplace. Active listening plays a vital role in our Communication Skills Course can help to increases sales, not just because it leads to better information but because it deepens relationships as well.
Wrong Audience – Too often, people treat workplace communication as self-expression. But self-expression is simply self-indulgence. If you want your message to have any effect, you need to know in advance who will receive it. It’s a good idea to imagine yourself as the receiver of your message and to ask, “What’s in it for me?” Organizing your message around the goals of the audience makes it more likely to be heard, understood, and acted on. That’s why our Communication Skills Course teaches participants how to do an audience analysis.
Poor Timing – Too little information and too much information are familiar sources of stress in the workplace. But what about early information or late information? An employee who is trained to use a new system months before the system is installed, for example, will have forgotten most of the training by the time it’s needed. And information that arrives after the project ends can have no effect other than to make the information’s sender appear oblivious. When communicating, check your timing.
Bad Information – We’re all familiar with those ridiculous email rumors that are passed along by our more credulous friends. They don’t usually do much harm. But in the workplace, where people might depend on messages in order to get their work done, bad information can have serious costs. It’s a good idea to verify information before passing it on, even when you “know” it is true.
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