People are inherently inefficient. In fact, our inefficiency sparks our desire to find a better way. Take travel for instance. To be able to travel faster, someone invented wheels, and then horse drawn carriages, bicycles, and cars. The birds in the sky compel us to fly and see the world. History would tell us that when we see something we can’t do, it compels us to find a way.
We live in a world where we are focused on doing more with less. We focus on process improvements to lean out inefficiencies in workflows. We utilize technology to automate what once was manual, labor intensive work. Time is money, and better, faster, more effective methods of doing work are being innovated every day.
However, have we made that same level of progress and efficiency in our interactions with others? Sure, social media has made it quicker and easier to communicate and connect with colleagues and friends all over the world, but when we are face-to-face with someone, do we really communicate efficiently? Based on a survey of 400 corporations in the U.S. and U.K., it is estimated that the cost of employee communication barriers and misunderstandings is about $37 billion.
There may be many culprits at play with our inefficient communication, but largely it is a dishonesty issue. What I mean by that is that we are dishonest because many of us are not fully open with our true thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas. Think about that. How many meetings have you been in where you or someone you work with didn’t share, only to have a post meeting to talk and share openly? My guess – a lot.
So, what holds us back from having open, honest and efficient communication?
Fear of the Unknown. Many people I have spoken with have talked about their fear of conflict, or avoidance of conflict all together. The reason given tends to be because we don’t want to hurt others. While that may be true, I believe it is our own discomfort with not knowing how people will respond to what we have to say. The lack of control, predictability and our own discomfort drives us to filter and withhold information.
Minimizing. I have countless examples in my own life and in my work with others of minimizing our own feelings and needs. Why do we say “it’s fine”, when it’s really not? Our need to be liked, or for others to feel comfortable, becomes more important than having accountable communication and relationships. If we are dishonest with ourselves, how can we be honest with others?
Need to be needed. Many of us hold back to protect ourselves in some way. While some people withhold knowledge to leverage their importance, others become overly responsible and take on too much so others don’t have to. Although this looks different for all of us, the intent is the same.
Putting others in a box. Based on previous experiences, our own beliefs, and how we filter information, we make assumptions about how people will respond to what we have to say. We predetermine how people will react, and judge whether our ideas are worth sharing to those individuals. As a result, we presume that we are all knowing, and judge how capable people are.
Rejection. Can people handle it what I have to say? Will I get fired if I speak up? Will I lose this relationship? We settle for what’s comfortable instead of pushing for a higher standard for ourselves and others.
Eliminating these barriers is key to creating better communication in the workplace. When people can be honest and have open conversations, problems can be easily identified and addressed. Removing these fears and extra baggage results to a thriving work environment, where meetings and relationships can be even more efficient and innovative.