I believe communication breakdowns are underrated. They happen everyday in business, and wherever you are and whatever you're working on they are getting in the way, causing frustration, money, and time in varying degrees. And while this is happening, it is all being brushed aside, overlooked, and underrated unless someone steps in to clear everything up so everyone is confident, relaxed, making the most of their time and earning more money.
A communication breakdown happens every time a communicator miscommunicates what they are really trying to say, and/or the hearer misunderstands and mis-interprets what has been communicated. It is important to remember all sides of a communication breakdown, those who communicated and those who were communicated to. Sometimes they are clients, sometimes they are staff. Whoever is involved, it's costly to let it continue, especially once it has been identified.
Here are 5 tips to correct communication breakdowns when you are in the middle of them.
- Own your mistakes. Nothing makes things worse like blame-shifting. If you communicated poorly, own it. If you misunderstood someone, let them and everyone affected know. This does wonders to correct problems, and sometimes resolves communication breakdowns immediately.
- Slow down. Probably the most popular response to communication breakdowns is rushing to resolve everything as fast as possible. What needs to happen is a noticeable shift in pace towards moving more slowly. People aren't inclined to think something is important when we want to rush it, it's when we slow down that everyone understands something is important enough to take time to figure out.
- Focus on unity. Do everything possible to make sure people are coming together and not straying apart. Communication breakdowns will tend to divide and destroy, and just by getting everyone involved in the same room, on the same page, focused on the same results will have a correcting affect on many problems.
- Win people, not arguments. Usually, a few key people are to blame for a communication breakdown. Make it clear that beating them up is not the goal. Winning them is. If the person to blame is a staff person, winning them keeps them on the team. If it's a client, winning them keeps their trust and their business. If you win the argument to prove who's wrong and you lose a person, you just lose. This is the worst case scenario for a communication breakdown, and most of the time it does not need to happen.
- Be patient. Communication breakdowns are frustrating, and leading out of them is hard. Without patience, it only gets worse. If you don't believe me, just give it a try without patience. A lack of patience is usually what created the mess, so unless it gets added to the mix it will only get worse.
I hope this helps you dig out of any communication breakdowns you currently find yourselves in, or helps you prevent them altogether. At GRAYBOX, we exist to serve our clients and communication is one of our highest priorities to do that well.