June 6, 2017

Why #4: Communication is the problem. Or is it?

Communication. Ever wondered how communication is such a vital thing in our lives yet we still don’t fully master it?

First thing after we’re born, we’re taught to talk. Going from utter gibberish to “mama dada” to eloquent speeches in front of a jury that holds our final diploma in hand. It’s fascinating!

Actually, did you know that, on average, we speak more than 15,000 words per day? That’s a lot of words if you ask me. Yet, we still have communication problems. We talk all day yet some important information doesn't get through and causes blockers.

So what’s the problem?

Well, just because we talk too much, doesn’t mean we’re saying the right things.

Picture it this way:

I want you to bring me a glass of water. It’s clear in my head since I’m the one asking for it. But it doesn’t mean that I explain it clearly enough for you to understand and act upon it! I can say “I’m thirsty, I want something to drink”.

That’s too vague. You wouldn’t know whether to bring me juice, tea, coffee, or plain water, how much I’m asking for, or how I prefer it.

Now imagine I just said “Can you get me a glass of water? Not too cold, please. Just a few ice cubes would be enough.” You would go straight to the fridge knowing exactly what you need to get me. Easy, right? No confusion, no assumptions, and the end results are satisfying.

The thing is that, communication is very tricky. It’s hard to make it efficient, but not impossible.

Communication Rule #1: know what you’re trying to say

The first thing you need to do is figure out exactly what you need out of that person. What’s your end goal from the conversation? What is it that you need them to do? What information do you need from them? How important is that information? Is it too urgent or can it wait?All these questions, once answered, will lead you to the next step: figuring out how to formulate it.

Communication Rule #2: Know how to say it

Knowing what to say is one thing. Knowing how to say it is another, and usually is the hardest part. It is important to make sure that you’re speaking the same “language” the other person is familiar with. For example, you can’t start talking about a very specific technical feature to a marketing person. Just like you can’t use marketing abbreviations with your developer. Either way, none of them will understand what you’re talking about. Not because they’re not smart enough but simply because they’re not familiar with it. Once you figure out what and how you’re going to say it, it’s time to just, say it! But where?

Communication Rule #3: Know where/when to say it!

This is not a simple matter of “do I say it in the conference room or in the lobby?”. It’s more about what channel you use to say it. Should you slack them about it? Email it maybe? Or say it in person for an instant response? It all depends on the urgency of the ask.

Actually, asking is not the problem. The tricky part is keeping track of it. Chances are, you have different people to ask about different things that all relate to the same task. But also all of them are available on different channels, depending on what they’re doing. So making sure that, at the end of the day, you have everything in one place can be quite exhausting.

With everyone sending messages to everyone to make sure they have enough information to reply to everyone, it can get very confusing and hard to track.

Before you know it, you have scattered information across all channels and no idea how things got so complicated!The main issue with inefficient communication is having all the scattered information all over the place.

No matter how hard you try to group them, they still get lost and fall through the cracks of your constant audits. It really is a huge pain in the neck, we fully admit that. But what’s causing all this mess? Could it be the various channels you’re using?