When I say communication is hard, I mean all communication is hard. It could be in a loving relationship of two people, parents and their children, or between business partners. And, it is really hard even when all parties share a common set of values and beliefs. If they don’t – yikes!
I read blogs and articles all the time on culture, business etiquette, innovation, and many other topics. Communication is rarely a theme. It seems to me that communication is the cornerstone of all relationships and deserves more attention that anything else for this reason. In fact, how can anything else of significant be going well in a relationship (including things like culture and innovation) if the communication channels are broken?
Stepping back and looking at what “communication” means, a quick Google search brings up – of course – Wikipedia. The entry for communication is almost poetic:
the activity of conveying information through the exchange of ideas, feelings, intentions, attitudes, expectations, perceptions or commands, as by speech, gestures, writings, behaviour and possibly by other means such as electromagnetic, chemical or physical phenomena. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more participants that might or might not be living creatures
There is some really powerful stuff there. Look at that second sentence (ignoring the non-living creatures bit) – the meaningful exchange of information between two or more participants.
What has to occur for “meaningful exchange” to happen? (And yes, I totally get the irony of writing about this in a blog post!)
I’m not an expert, but clearly, at a minimum:
- the communicator needs to have a message worth telling
- the receiver(s) needs to want to hear the message
- the communicator needs to convey the message in a way the receiver(s) can comprehend
- the receiver(s) need to be ready to consume the message
This list does not even address the difficult points – on both sides – of the exchange having some combination of “ideas, feelings, intentions, attitudes, expectations, perceptions/commands.” I mean, I start talking (clearly) before I have fully fleshed out the ideas, feelings, expectations in my own mind … take a breath first, Kirk!
Technology has done a spectacular job of improving communication in some ways as witnessed by technologies like Skype connecting people who can’t be physically together and Webex allowing people to communication with visuals over great distances. Platforms like WordPress and Medium allow for the sharing of ideas to and from very diverse (in every sense of the word) audiences – but is it really communication? Facebook? Who knows. Twitter? Read the definition above again and think about doing that in 140 characters!
Maybe the worse offender of all is email. Most of us write very quickly without proof-reading (some of us more than others). How many of us really do a good job of expressing ideas, feelings, intentions, and so forth via a keyboard and email platforms? Even if we do, are our “expectations” clear? Is the receiver ready to hear our well-thought out and well-written message?
Am I suggesting there is a magic bullet to cure all communication woes? Not at all. (If someone knows of one, please let me in on the secret.) What I do know is, much like most other things in life, assuming communication channels are working is very dangerous. Test your communication styles and media. Check with people regularly. Is your message getting through? If not, change it up. Try new things. Get more concise. Add more detail. Don’t assume others have the background you have on the topic. Ask and interrogate all the time. And remember, you can only change your message, medium, timing and style. Don’t blame the receiver for your side of the communication. Not only is that too easy, it isn’t going to help you at all.
At travelabulous, the good news is that the three of us are bought into a single vision, share very similar value systems, and like the same frameworks and methodologies. We also all like each other. In spite of this, communication is still hard. Miscommunication costs us time. Waiting on answers also costs us time. And seeing how we are still pre-revenue, time is our only currency and it is really expensive!
We are committed to working on it though. Really hard. Finding the right times to get together. Optimizing serialized communication. Using technology effectively. Getting shit done fast, but only needing to do it once, because it was clear that we have a shared understanding the first time.
To close this post, I guess what I am really saying is that you can’t work hard enough on communication. Take the time to work on it relentlessly. I know I am going to … finally.
’til next time, Kirk out!