Have you noticed how communication, even between friends, can become a minefield of miscommunication, indecision, confusion, indecisiveness and decision avoidance?
Take the modern process for arranging a night out with a friend: It might begin with a simple text along the lines of “How are you? It’s been too long!” But how quickly it descends from there into a full evening of chaotic, and often inconclusive texting. We fire messages at each other, initially full of enthusiasm, suggesting a get together. Dates are suggested, rejected and alternatives tentatively agreed (subject to childcare arrangements and the ability to take dogs). Enquiries are made about what the other person would like to ‘do’. Venues are negotiated amongst the fog of unasked questions about who’s willing to make the greatest effort by travelling further. Budgets are discussed in a clumsy, roundabout way that suggests we’re on a budget, because we’re worried they might be. An outline arrangement is finally, tentatively agreed through the medium of about a billion texts, before someone realises that they’re already engaged that evening and the process begins again.
As the evening descends into chaos, and frustrations grow, there is the ever-increasing risk of a message being taken the wrong way, leading to bad feeling and a suspension of all negotiations.
It’s strange that in an age of instant communication, so much of it is written, both at home and at work. Especially when you consider how difficult it is to efficiently, accurately and unambiguously communicate emotions, feelings and attitudes using the written word.
I think, at heart, most of us know that often the best communication tool to use is face-to-face discussion, or if that’s impractical, a video or telephone call. So, why do we shy away from using these?
Are we so wrapped up in a culture of soundbites that we’ve forgotten how to communicate by other means? Or does it stem from a desire to take one step back from our words and their possible impact? Or, perhaps most likely, from an illusion of speed?
Most of us tend, naturally, to be better at face-to-face communication because we are able to pick up both verbal and non-verbal clues, and respond to these, as we discuss an issue. Face-to-face, we can see and read pitch, tone and body language. Even a traditional phone call allows us to hear pitch and tone.
Perhaps because of this, these forms of communication, in my experience, usually encourage kinder, more empathetic communication (unless they occur in the heat of the moment). And better solutions.
So, how about in 2019, we try to make more time for a chat? (I say more time; it’s often the most time-efficient solution – as my opening gambit hopefully illustrated.) You can come and chat with us and other professional trainers at our Discovery Days and on our Creative Training Essentials course.
Meanwhile, on the topic of effective communication, you might like to know we’ve added a brand new short video on Building Rapport to Trainers’ Library. (It’s also available to line managers through Managers’ Library.)