We all get emails and texts constantly, and this is a good thing. We’re connected. We feel engaged. We can respond immediately. With all of this instant access, though, we may be missing something vital—knowing how to truly connect with people to capitalize on their approaches, ideas, and work styles.
With instantaneous communication, the message of the sender is what is imparted. Messages delivered constantly take on not only the immediacy of the sender but also the communication style of the sender. Some are brusque and to the point, focused only on the problem and how to solve it. Other messages take on a step-by-step tone with details galore. Still others are only concerned with the broader ideas and don’t sweat the details. Finally, some are composed with a genuine care in non-work-related issues, like family and life.
No one way is right or wrong, but all impart a certain message, which may not be resonating with the receiver. Leadership strategist Art Petty calls it a “Context Canyon” and says that in leading change, for example, “the issues and often the approaches are well-baked in their [leaders’] minds, while the rest of us on the receiving end are left with the deep thoughts of, ‘Huh?’ or, ‘Why?’ or, ‘Huh?’ The result is a gaping hole that I call the ‘Context Canyon’ between managers suggesting change and employees processing on the implications of change.”
Or, in my words, the messenger is killing the message.
Suppose, for example, you know exactly the way that your teammate likes to receive project updates; would you deliver them in your way or his way? Chances are you’d first simply go with your instinct, which works fine until things start to get hectic or a project starts to unravel. Your teammate can no longer easily and politely adapt to constantly receiving information outside the way he processes it. Time is lost, relationships could become damaged, and productivity suffers.
At some point, you’d realize that you (the messenger) had killed your message. The message itself was fine, but it wasn’t reaching your teammate as effectively as it should have. Then, you’d probably try different ways of doing things until one stuck or, worse, dig in your heels and plow forward, each of you sticking to your guns.
In essence, flexing your style to meet that of your receiver is removing barriers to communication. Barriers may be stylistic, cognitive, or behaviorally based, but the more barriers to communication that can be actively broken down, the more effective you will be as a teammate, employee, or leader.
Here are three tips to actively remove barriers to communication in your workplace:
- Ask questions to determine how your receiver likes information – Are they expressive and want to have a conversation? Are they open to pop-up meetings or do they want everything scheduled?
- Actively look at your own ways of thinking and communicating and see where your biases are – You can do this via simple self-discovery or via a more in-depth tool like an assessment (Emergenetics measures thinking and behavior in 7 attributes – other assessments measure emotional intelligence and other personality aspects).
- Monitor the results and shift to ensure you’re communicating at the most optimal level possible.
Bottom line: It’s about others, not yourself—think like that and you can stop being the messenger who kills your message.