“Words are the source of misunderstandings.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Miscommunication happens all the time in the workplace; for some offices, it even seems to be a way of life. According to the Joint Commission, miscommunications in the medical profession regarding improperly written prescriptions “harms an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States each year, [and results] in upward of $3.5 billion in extra medical costs.”1
That’s a hefty price to pay for hurried and thoughtless communication.
It’s nearly inevitable that at some point or another, one person will not have a clear sense of what the other wants or needs. When miscommunication is addressed, it can be cleared up and leave both parties feeling more trusted and trusting of each other.
When miscommunication is not addressed, it has the exact opposite effect.
This article is about things you can do to avoid miscommunication in the first place. If you are truly interested in becoming a better leader or taking on a leadership role in your office, learning how to expertly manage your dealings with others is key (if you’d like more insight on the topic of leadership, click HERE.
How Can I Share this Information in a Clear Way?
Most importantly, clear communication must stem from a desire to have the other person utterly understand what you mean. Something as simple as sending out a memo can take up valuable time and resources if employees have to go back and forth to clear up a misunderstanding.
So, before you make a request, ask yourself, “How can I share this information in a way that this person can most easily understand?” This is different than the age-old idea that, “If you can’t figure it out, then you’re useless.”
The idea is to look at the information from the other person’s perspective, and as I’ve noted before, different people communicate in different ways. Often this means that in your communication, it’s important to share with the other person why you’re making this request – especially if it’s an urgent matter. When they know why they’re asked to do something, they will take more ownership over the task and do a better job.
Observe How the Receiver Responds to the Information
As you explain your request to the other person, notice not only their words but also their non-verbal communication. Read between the lines. Are there any signals indicating that this person might not fully understand your meaning?
Give him or her the opportunity to ask you questions, and then ask them questions. Some good questions to ask to make sure the other person fully understands your communication are things like:
- What other things do you think we can do?
- How would you approach this?
- What are other projects you have that might get in the way of completing this project on time?
- What do you think about these ideas?
Really asking for input will help you understand the other person’s level of clarity and it also will help give you a fresh perspective on the project at hand. Work with the other person to establish an agreed-upon level of priority for the project, as well.
Miscommunication accounts for much lost revenue and inefficiency in the workplace. Understanding not only how to receive information but also how to give information is an important part of corporate leadership. Ready to make a few changes in your work habits to become more appealing for the next promotion? Click HERE to discover some simple ways you can improve your effectiveness at work while staying in alignment with your authentic self.
- PeopleMetrics Alum. “Combating Miscommunication in the Workplace for Customer Centricity.” PeopleMetrics: Customer Experience Blog. PeopleMetrics.com. 16 September 2009. Web 3 March 2016.
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