Four Ways You Can Fail to Communicate

If “what we have here is a failure to communicate”  is still a problem (and, it is), then what are the specific ways we fail at communicating? This could be a long list, but here are four. (These can apply to most any and all spoken or written communication).

#1 – You simply don’t communicate.

If there is something you know that others do not know, and they should know (and, they probably should know most everything!), and you don’t “tell them,” then you have failed to communicate. Let’s call this the “I’ve kept my mouth shut too long” problem.

Whenever an employee or a member of a group says, “I wish they would not keep me in the dark,” this reflects this particular failure of communication.

Once you know something – anything – that needs to be communicated, communicate it!

#2 – You say the wrong thing.

You know those times when you write an e-mail and hit send too quickly, or when words come out of your mouth and you wish you could grab them back? Call this the “say the wrong thing” problem.

If you say the wrong thing, you have failed to communicate effectively. It really is better to say nothing than to say the wrong thing.

#3 – You communicate with words, ideas, concepts that your audience/readers do not understand.

Sometimes, you have such a deep and quick-to-fully-grasp understanding of words, ideas, acronyms…, that you just assume everyone else understands what you understand. Call this the “too much jargon” problem.

You think those receiving your message know what you know. Many times, they don’t! Becoming a much better explainer – “this is what I mean by the use of this word, this acronym” — should become a regular part of your communication strategy.

#4 – You assume that one communication (one “telling,” one “saying,” one writing) is enough.

It isn’t. It never is!

Whenever you think, or say, “I told them; I sent them an e-mail; I left a voice message — so I have communicated…” you think you are now absolved of all responsibility.  That is a big mistake!

Call this the “I told them – how can they say I haven’t communicated” problem.

People are busy. They get lots of e-mails. Their mind is distracted in multiple ways during meetings, and presentations. Don’t ever feel too put out with them for “missing” your message. (You’ve missed a few yourself a time or more).

Remember the Rule of 17 - Click on image for full view
Remember the Rule of Seventeen – Click on image for full view

Remember The Rule of 17 (see this blog post) – it takes repeating a message many times (17, to be precise) before you can say you have “communicated” a message.

Remember the old rule — sending a message is not communicating. You have not communicated until the “receiver” receives the sent message.

Communicating well is a challenge in every arena of modern society. Pay attention to these four communication failures, and you will have a better chance of being known as a “great communicator.”


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