What is the deadliest communication style? Do you have any guesses?
Hopefully, you have not had repetitive painful run-ins with poor communication in your business or personal life. Let’s face it though, people don’t always have this skill. Heck, you and I may not have this skill! Communication is learned. We all have challenges to overcome when it comes to communication. Culture, personality, ethics, experience, education — they all greatly play a role in our ability to communicate. Communication holds an ever-evolving need for growth as we continue learning, and understanding ourselves and others.
Communication is a key component to quality leadership.
If I asked you to name a couple communication styles or habits that were harmful or ineffective in your life, I’m sure you could name a few pretty quickly, right? If we take a minute to talk about when offenses come in the workplace, or when jobs don’t get done right or on time, communication always plays a major role. In some cases, it can even be identified as the root cause of many problems. Misunderstanding leads to confusion and error. Misunderstandings can also lead us to unhealthy team dynamics, lack of motivation, and ultimately, financial loss in our businesses.
There are quite a few practical tips to help with understanding in communication, and some of them may be familiar to you…
For example, one way that you may eliminate confusion in communication is by repeating or paraphrasing what someone has told you, to confirm with them that you understand what they said.
You may also deliver the message in multiple vehicles, to ensure the message is clear. Let’s say you’re on a phone call that discusses action items and deadlines. After the call, you may follow-up with a written email including meeting notes and key points.
Another method for delivering clear communication is to word the same message differently in order to be sure it is interpreted accurately. For example, “The woman on the phone we’ll have to see a sample before we can order”, may be better understood when communicated with this wording: “The woman told me that the item we were looking for has sold out, but she has a sample in storage to send us that will help decide what to order when they are back in stock”. Those two explanations offer a very different understanding, do they not? As you may find, including more descriptive explanations can sometimes help eliminate confusion or bring clarity.
Have you ever played telephone? Messages being delivered through 3-4 people can get confused very easily. This has happened to me on many occasions and requires extra work to get the right message to the right party. I notice sometimes that error comes when I am seeking to deliver a message, without seeking to understand. If I really understood all the pieces of what was being communicated, I would be better positioned to help problem solve and communicate effectively. It’s not about the message itself, it’s about the purpose of the message. Communication has a purpose.
For example, on one occasion I was tasked to call a technical company with a specific question. The tech rep gave me solution, but he included some jargon I didn’t understand, along with an alternative option. I delivered this message to the party inquiring, but they didn’t have a clear understanding of the alternative option, because I wasn’t sure how to communicate the jargon the tech rep explained on the phone. I never bothered to ask the tech rep to explain the jargon and alternative solution because I was only concerned with doing one thing: delivering an answer to get the job done, not to understand and communicate effectively. Sure, there may be someone more “qualified” to speak directly to this tech rep, but there were extra steps I could have taken to better understand and as a result, better communicate!
There is a lot that can be done to develop, correct and improve our communication, but we may only improve to the degree that we are willing to… This brings me to the deadliest communication style: none.
We certainly want to believe the best of others 100% of the time, but lack of communication is problematic! No one understands what’s going on! Everyone is confused, some are offended, most are unmotivated and it all becomes entirely pointless. I think we can all agree that it’s unprofessional, but mostly, the unwillingness to communicate demonstrates the inability to respect others, and even ourselves.
No communication at all is the deadliest style of communication.
I know you might be thinking that no communication is not a communication style, but the reality is that if it happens frequently enough, it’s a style! I’ve seen many people knowingly and unknowingly do this in their personal life, and even within their business. Most of the time, people mean no harm, but it can still have a negative impact.
Have you ever heard of ghosting? Has this ever happened to you?
ghosting: the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
I know others who have experienced this, and I myself have experienced this both in my personal and professional life. Have you ever had someone stop showing up or start shutting you out? What a disappointment.
Let’s say that without any explanation, a relationship has been completely cut off, and essentially ruined. Maybe you lost money, maybe it ruined your reputation, or maybe it damaged your self-esteem. That’s a whole lot of heavy consequences from the presence of zero communication! Can you imagine how different things would feel if there had just been an opportunity to communicate about what was happening? Even if communication is conflict, at least we have the opportunity to grow and learn! Where there is no communication, no understanding and growth can happen. In those instances, we do not learn how to grow together, we just learn how to cope alone.
While ghosting may seem like the most severe or extreme form of non-communication, there are varying degrees of this communication style that may wreak havoc in our working worlds.
What does lack of communication look like in the workplace?
1. Delayed Communication
Delayed communication, specifically that which is unnecessarily prolonged, is a hazard. At the very least, it would be of value to communicate when certain information is expected. Communicate something, anything!!
2. Abrupt Communication
Take the extra time, and mutual intention, to communicate and understand each other. At the end of the day, we should still be prioritizing people, not what they can accomplish.
3. Partial Communication
Partial communication means that you aren’t getting the whole story, you’re missing pieces of information. In some cases, this is not a problem. For example, if you’re working with confidential information, there are parameters for what should or shouldn’t be communicated. It’s important to understand and consider discretion. This can be done with integrity! However, when you come across someone who is spitefully, maliciously, or manipulatively withholding information, you have a lot to consider. It is an immediate red flag. This does not enable trust in a working relationship by any means, and it will absolutely not end well. It could be that they are afraid to communicate honestly. In some cases, you may confront this and experience positive results. However, if they continue to ignore the issue and refuse to take ownership — they simply can’t be trusted. Would you want to work with a liar or a thief? Then why stay in unhealthy working relationships? You have better relationships waiting for you!
How do we improve the lack of communication and bridge the gap here when working with others?
Don’t neglect communication, and do everything in your ability to ensure clear communication. Don’t be afraid to confront communication neglect or other unhealthy communication habits, in yourself or others.
Working through the challenges in relationships can be exhausting and scary. The truth is, they can also be incredibly rewarding, and they should be rewarding! Your growth, and the growth of others is the most important part of the journey. Sometimes communication requires putting yourself out there. If you don’t…you’ll never know what’s possible.
Use your voice. Let others use theirs.
“Have courage and be kind.”