Mis-Communication Happens Often, and Is So Darned Hard

Respect Teamwork


In my July 21 personal blog I referenced the remarkable percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. She teaches the importance and beauty in being ultra sensitive to people’s “vibrations.”  The following are some practical tools to help us connect with those vibrations when we have a miscommunication. I’ve drawn them from the recent Harvard Business Review blog written by Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc.

“Who is responsible for making the first move to clear up a miscommunication?” Peter’s response, “Whoever sees it first.” I couldn’t agree more. It is not about who is right or wrong or who makes the first move.  It is about clearing up the misunderstanding. And as I stress so often, it’s the self accountable thing to do.

“How do we know that there is something deeper going on in a communication process?”  Peter’s view is that “tone” is a clue. When the tone of the discussion has an edge to it  there is probably something not right. That may seem so obvious but how many times do we just run by that signal? My view is that this is a good time to really be present and try to take in those vibrations Evelyn talks about.

If the other person’s response or view does not seem reasonable, especially when that person is normally reasonable, this is an alarm bell that something deeper is driving the response. Bregman’s advice: “Don’t slam the other person for being unreasonable. And don’t make the mistake of telling that person what they’re really trying to say. Instead, even if you think you know what’s going on, ask a question.” Holy cow… I couldn’t agree more. And don’t ask a patronizing or loaded question. First ask yourself what’s going on and then ask the other person genuinely what is going on; you need to understand their feelings at a much deeper level.

The Respect value of the Character Triangle is based on listening and understanding. At work we come from such different angles and today much of our contact is remote.  Fighting for understanding is the best for our team mates and the best for us too. It is however, hard work. It may be easier at the outset to ignore the miscommunication but it has a negative cumulative effect on our relationship. Be self accountable; take the action to address it. Respect means asking a lot of questions for understanding. Bregman gives us a few good practical guides.

with Character,