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When Communication Lets You Down

communication styles Feb 15, 2023

Do you ever feel like communicating should be easier than it is? What you want to say is so clear in your head, but when you try to communicate it the message just falls to the floor and your listener stares at you blankly. Even worse, when it seems like great communication has happened, only to find out later the two of you were on a totally different page. 

Communication is more than language. It is all the meaning and expectations behind the language. Our personality and how we are wired influences the meaning we assign to words, the information we notice, what we talk about and most importantly the expectations we have of others in “good communication." Here are three scenarios with a communication breakdown:

Scenario 1: A manager delegating a task

A manager shares what the outcome looks like as they delegate a task, but then the task is not completed as expected. The manager asks questions only to discover the two of them were speaking a different language. It wasn’t that the person just did their own thing, they actually heard something different than what was said.

Scenario 2: A team problem solving a challenge

A team spends the whole meeting discussing how to address a specific challenge and everybody in the room nods in agreement and gives a thumbs up to the decision. But, when they leave the room each team member starts doing things differently. When you talk to them about it you find out that everybody has a different understanding of what was decided and how they should act on it.

Scenario 3: A couple plans a vacation or a simple date night

And it’s not just at work! A couple plans a vacation or a simple date night and both are filled with expectations for their time together. As the event unfolds, frustration grows because details were missed. The image of what the time together should be doesn’t measure up with reality. Attempts to adjust and get the time back on track get derailed by miscommunication and misunderstanding.

And the examples could continue in a variety of relationships where communication simply falls short. Expectations are not met, results are derailed, and relationships suffer.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

– George Bernard Shaw

Strengthening the foundations of communication in a team, co-worker, family or friend relationships involves expanding our understanding of the different ways people take in information, notice what is important to them and process their decisions based on that information. Even at a young age our natural communication style begins to take shape. Yes, it is influenced by our experiences and the context we are in. And, we can learn communication skills that help us bridge the gap. However, when we are under stress or not really thinking about it – our natural preferences bubble to the surface. Exploring our own unique approach to communication and recognizing different approaches can bridge gaps of communication. 

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessments offer a way to deepen understanding of personal preferences and explore ways to adapt communication to address the needs and preferences of others in the relationships that matter. Let’s start with understanding our own style – the approach for these four communication styles is based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

What's Next

In this upcoming blog series, we are exploring preferences as they apply to our approach to communication with three goals in mind:

  1. Become more receptive to new insights and awareness about self and others
  2. Leverage our power to choose by responding with intentional communication
  3. Strengthen the foundations of communication with resilience in our pursuit of intentional communication despite the challenges  

Transformation in our communication approach cannot be achieved by simply acquiring a new set of skills – sustainable transformation comes from a deeper place of knowing who you are and acquiring an appreciation for the differences of others. The skills we gain can be applied with intentionality and greater focus when they come from that deeper foundation built on receptivity to new awareness, responding with intentionality and reinforcing resilience with consistent use of new skills along with ongoing evaluation of results.

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