Are You Making Excuses for Poor Communication?

by: Shannon McNay

Judging your own communication skills is a lot like looking in a mirror. You have a specific picture in your mind of what you’re seeing, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that everyone else sees something slightly different than you do.

But even though we understand that people don’t see exactly what we see in the mirror, we have no clue that the same applies to the way we communicate. So when a communication error occurs, we become convinced that the wires were crossed on the other end, not our own.

This takes on an even scarier form when we can find scapegoats for our communication deficiencies:

I’m just SO bad at talking on the phone.

Networking events are awkward for everyone.

I have too many emails to possibly answer them all.

It’s because we’re all remote – in person meetings are much more effective.

While there is always some truth to the scapegoats we use (there often is), it’s way too easy to turn them into a crutch:

To say “I’m bad at talking on the phone” means “I don’t need to fix it. I will forever stand by that and simply decide that nothing can be done over the phone – or if it goes wrong, it’s not my fault. It’s the phone’s fault.”

To say that networking events are always awkward or that no one could be expected to answer every email does the same thing. It removes the onus from ourselves and places it on the platform.

To say the communication blunder happened because you’re not in the same office covers up potential issues that already existed in the professional atmosphere (or in your own professional communication – or lack thereof) and leads to a sweeping generalization: “Remote working simply isn’t as effective as having a whole team in the same office. Therefore, I did everything I could, but remote working simply doesn’t work.”

Do you see how these excuses prevent us from ever having to take responsibility? It’s the same when we blame someone else: if we think they messed up and that we were perfect on our end, then there’s no discussion. No effort to improve the situation. Just simply a placing of blame and a removal of personal responsibility.

The fact is, communication is hard. We all have some form of communication deficiency. (And we all have different communication styles – and therefore different expectations.) We need to take responsibility for our part. Even when totally convinced that the wires got crossed on the other end, there’s always something we can do to improve our process to make it better for both parties next time. Whether we feel at fault or not, we have to recognize that we can all do something about  it.

What excuses are you making for moments of poor communication? How can you work to improve upon what’s really causing the issue?

Image Credit: Sergei Zolkin

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