My mechanical engineer brother recently shared a conversation he had with a company salesmen. It sounded like this: Brother – “how does this part of the machine work?” Salesman – “I don’t know. I hoped you could figure it out.” The drawing my brother threatened to produce looked like this:
Many people approach communication that way. They say, “I am an excellent communicator. I always say exactly what I mean. I can’t help it if other people don’t understand.” That is like putting thoughts and ideas in the black box of hope and expecting perfect results.
It doesn’t matter how fluent you believe you are and how well you think you are explaining something. If the person you are talking to hears a different message than you intended the communication failed. Fortunately there are ways to reduce the risk of miscommunication. It just takes a little bit of what I call “conversation maintenance”.
The first step is recognizing that everyone has a communication style or fingerprint which is unique to them. It is developed starting at birth. What words mean, how they work together and what inflection adds to those words is learned through experience. Keep in mind, what you communicate is less than 5% about the words you chose. The rest is things like body language, inflection and cadence. Your communication fingerprint is most similar to people with similar experiences to yours. The more diverse the experiences on the team the greater the difference in their communication fingerprints and the greater the risk of miscommunication.
If you are going to be working with someone or in a team of people to reach a goal it will serve everyone involved very well to take the time to develop a team communication fingerprint. And don’t worry I hear you saying “But Doc Robyn, we don’t have time for that! We have work to do!” Trust me, if your team is going to be successful you will develop a fingerprint for communication for your team. The question is simply, will you do it by putting things blindly into the black box of hope and making adjustments by backtracking due to miscommunications and misunderstandings which often lead to hurt feelings, resentment and anger within the team and having to repeat the painful process every time you add someone new. Or will you take the proactive approach to figure out how to be the most productive right from the start and have a way to explain to new team members how things work so they can get up to speed very quickly. Sadly, most people chose the black box of hope. Over the next few weeks I am going to try to unpack that box so you will have a better understanding of what goes on during a conversation.
Do you have a great example of the use of black box communication? Can you estimate how much time it took to fix the miscommunication? Leave a comment and tell us about it!!
Come back next week when we will talk about the next step in conversation maintenance: If someone is always talking when am I supposed to think?
Tags :bad communication, Champion Performance Development, communication, Doc Robyn, effective communication, good communication, miscommunication, Robyn Odegaard, team building, team development, teamwork