On a recent camping trip, I was sitting around the campfire, tuned into everything going on around me. The forest was alive with sound! I heard the croaking of bullfrogs, the screeching of an owl, the crackling of the fire, the whistling of the wind through the trees, the buzz of insects flying by, the songs of whip-poor-wills and the plop of nuts falling to the ground. They all had something to say. I wondered whether the bullfrogs were communicating with the insects. I wondered whether the owl could understand the whip-poor-wills’ songs.
I thought about how these diverse sounds of nature are similar to those of our workforces and workplaces today – everything and everyone make some type of sound and has something to “say.” … Are we listening? Do we speak a common language?
These are the two biggest problems with communication:
- We believe the illusion that communication has been achieved.
- We listen to respond.
According to the 400 surveyed corporations in the U.S. and U.K. in The Holmes Report of 2011, the average cost of miscommunication per company is an astounding $62.4 million per year! We experience the result of miscommunication with missed deadlines, rework, misunderstandings, unmet expectations, scrap and waste, misinformation, lost productivity … and the list goes on and on.
Evidence of unclear or inadequate communication shows itself in the lack of employee engagement and via employee satisfaction surveys, which tell us regularly that “good” communication is not occurring. During subsequent focus groups, I hear these two things most often:
- “I am asked for my opinion, and I give it. But I have no idea if anyone has listened because nothing changes. So why would I keep sharing my opinion?”
- “I do not know what is expected of me.”
Effective communication is one of the most difficult skills to master. For many, learning it is a lifelong journey, because most often we prefer that others communicate with us in the same manner that we naturally communicate with them!
So what can we do to bridge the communication gap? Learn one another’s natural communication styles, and take responsibility to adapt our styles to those of our listeners!
Each of us communicates in his or her own unique way. We all have slightly different accents, tones, and volume. It has much to do with our human nature. For example:
- Some people communicate directly, listening for information that brings about results and/or fixes problems.
- Others communicate enthusiastically and listen for impact on people and their relationships to each other.
- While others communicate patiently, listening for their roles and contributions that support an overall plan.
- Some communicate analytically, listening for data and facts that ensure the best decisions.
Click here to learn more about communication style differences.
It’s no wonder that effectively communicating can be difficult. If you align your communication style with those of your listeners, you will save time, money and effort. Becoming a better listener can create one of your greatest competitive advantages!