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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Communication


June 26th, 2009

Career Opportunities podcast logoCommunication
By Douglas E. Welch



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Way back in my college days, as part of my BA in Communications, there was a required class that we all found a bit silly at first. This class was called IPCO 305 or Interpersonal Communications. Basically, this was a class on how people talked to one another. Surely, we all knew how to talk to each other. We had been doing it for years. Still, we did as we were asked and engaged in “dyadic encounters” which were basically conversations — usually over food or beer — and then studied these conversations in a somewhat scientific way. It all seemed a bit silly at the time, but I find this experience and education more useful every day.

The fact is, we often communicate poorly, if at all. Whether talking or listening, the ideas, thoughts, or tasks we are trying to communicate get lost in the surrounding noise, are misunderstood or simply go unheard. We spend a great deal of time “talking at” people without ever really communicating. Is it any wonder that so little gets accomplished for all the talking that goes on?

One of the most insidious communication problems, in your work and professional life, is assuming that others will just understand. Instead of asking a person to do something, we merely act as if we want something done and they are supposed to pick up on these, often, non-verbal clues and do what we want them to do. We see this in families all the time. If I pick up a broom and start sweeping the floor, I might assume that you will also figure out it is time to clean and join me in the task. This is flawed thinking for a variety of reasons. First, we might not have the same understanding of what is an appropriate time for a particular task. You might think it is time to clean, but I know I have a column due on deadline and must complete that first. You might think that since I am already doing the task, you don’t have to do it and can continue doing whatever you are doing. You may even find my cleaning activities to be annoying as you are trying to finish a different project or simply get some rest. It’s odd how something as simple as picking up a broom can mean so many things to different people.

As you can see, left to our non-verbal, non-communicating devices, it is no wonder why we get frustrated with others and they with us. In many cases, we have competing desires, but we never communicate that to others. We simply grow more and more frustrated and even angry that the other person doesn’t understand us, or worse still, is ignoring us or acting out of spite. Yet, we still avoid communicating clearly when we should see how much it facilitates our lives and our work. Perhaps we do this in a wrong-headed attempt to avoid conflict or confrontation. Maybe we don’t understand how to effectively communicate our wants, needs and desires. Perhaps we are shy, quiet or simply scared of causing a stir. Whichever it is, though, we all need to break away from our uncommunicative ways and forge a new path for our careers.

Great careers grow out of great communications. We might label it drive, leadership, being a people person or a good talker, but it is a simple fact that nearly every great leader is first a great communicator and you can be, too. You simply need to start communicating. Look back in the recent past and re-imagine an opportunity you had to communicate an idea, but failed to do so. How would things be different today had you taken that opportunity to speak up? How much trouble would have been saved? How much money? How many jobs? How much better would you feel about yourself and your work? I believe that you will easily find many situations that would have been improved, or avoided altogether, had you only communicated more clearly.

Your task for the coming weeks is to look for opportunities to communicate, both good and bad news, solutions and problems, wild ideas and concrete thoughts. Look to head problems off “at the pass” by communicating more frequently, more clearly and with more people. Free up time in your busy career by communicating so clearly that extra meetings, teleconferences and follow-up emails simply aren’t necessary. Never again assume that people know what you want simply by looking at your actions. Explain to them, in both large and small ways, exactly what you want, need and desire from them. Clear communication has the ability to make everyone’s life a bit easier and a bit more productive.

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