The more I work with organizational dynamics, the more I hear that people target communication (or lack thereof) as the main issue within their organizations.
Is that true? We communicate all the time - it's just that we don't really know the effects of our communication.
Or maybe we don't communicate - we talk and vent and discuss and rant and whine and complain and plead and persuade but do we really communicate?
Communication: the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
So that begs the definition of "interchange":
Interchange: a changing of places, as between two persons or things, or of one with another.
So, according to this definition, we actually have to put ourselves in the place of another in that exchange of thoughts, opinions or information.
Therein lies the rub.
How often, especially in a work setting, do we go to those lengths in our "communication"? To be the most effective in our communication, there must be an element of selflessness and that is very unusual for most people who have been conditioned in "CYA" management structure.
I've noticed recently that in order to feel I'm really engaged in a conversation - whether in a work setting or in a social setting - I must be willing to put myself into the conversation. I can't wait for another to provide the interchange; if I want to be an effective communicator, I have to start.
And the most powerful place I can start is by creating the proper listening space for the speaker to speak into.
Have you ever really thought about how important that space is to the speaker? Try it sometime. Don't listen when someone is talking to you and notice how frustrated he/she gets when trying to communicate with you. Then try it again by giving your full attention. See the difference?
So although on the surface the problem appears to be "communication," I think it's deeper than that and has more to do with intention and what I call the "why." If I'm clear about what I really want in my workplace, it will automatically dictate how I'm being in that situation. For many people the default way of being is victim or blaming or some other way that does not require their being responsible for the less-than-effective culture, which is just easier to call a "communication problem."And lots of times the distance is maintained by saying "THEY don't communicate around here."
I speak from experience in that situation: on both sides of the dilemma. In a previous job my title was communications coordinator and it was my duty to handle the external communications, including the newsletter and other correspondence with our publics, as well as our internal newsletter and our intranet. At one point I directed a company communications audit with an outside organization to analyze our communication. The outside company determined that our organization had one of the best communications plans in place that they had ever seen. We had all the right tools and channels to make sure we were communicating with people in many ways. Yet the phrase that prompted the audit in the first place came from an employee satisfaction survey: "We never know what's going on around here."
In hindsight now I can see that perhaps by maintaining my righteous attitude about offering all the communication channels possible to my constituents, I may have been actually impeding true communication efforts among those who desired the information transfer. Maybe it wasn't that they didn't have all the channels available, it was that they didn't feel heard or understood. We may have been communicating at them, not with them.
How often does it occur in our homes, workplaces, schools, churches, organizations and any other place people interact that people are talking but not communicating? And often people may have an inkling that they have a role in the effectiveness of that communication, but don't want to take responsibility for their part, so end up blaming the other, thus colluding against what they say they want.
So, what's the answer? I think it's to be aware that when we become clearer about what we don't want, it's actually a very big step in becoming more effective. As we notice our discomfort and can name it, we get closer to naming what it is we do want. As we can identify that, we can begin to realize that we maybe are focusing more on what's wrong than envisioning things the way we would like them to be.
This is most certainly a process, not an isolated aha event. But when we come together in our shared desires, that's when we can assist each other in achieving those goals.
So notice the communication gaps around you. What do you really want? The gaps or the understanding? What shows up around us is what we ARE, not what we WANT. Only when we stop wanting and start becoming can we alter the situation.