Effective communication is crucial in any workplace, yet it often fails, even in well-resourced environments. Despite numerous improvements to organizational structures and policies, communication remains a significant challenge. Why? Because it is not just an organizational issue but a human one. We are the ones who operate and work in these organizations, and we (collectively) are the ones dropping the ball.
A common problem in many organizations is the phenomenon we can liken to "the blind leading the blind." This is particularly apparent when it comes to communication training.
Often, managers and leaders, who themselves have not fully grasped the essence of effective communication, are the ones training employees or delegating communication tasks. This deficiency at higher levels ultimately permeates the organization, leaving employees struggling to express their ideas effectively. A solution to this issue lies in the leaders' commitment to self-education, embodying the standards they set, and exemplifying the communication skills they want their teams to display – compassionate listening, conciseness, and constructive feedback, to name a few.
To improve our communication, we first need to understand ourselves better. By being more self-aware, we can spot our biases and keep them in check. This allows us to see situations more clearly, separating the facts from our thoughts and feelings—which alter our perception of reality and get in the way. We can also let go of the need to always be right, win, or prove a point. This change in approach helps us communicate more openly, fairly, and impactfully.
However, despite our best intentions, we frequently attribute communication breakdowns to external sources instead of turning inward for self-reflection and improvement. Our ego and stubbornness serve as blinders, hindering us from acknowledging our shortcomings as communicators and assuming the other person misunderstood us. However, it is through humility and self-awareness that we can initiate a shift in this narrative. Recognizing that our communication skills are not flawless, we can strive for improvement, seeking to better understand others' reception of our messages and modifying our communication styles to suit the audience.
Unfortunately, developing a strong sense of self-awareness takes time and effort. Despite the frequent discussions about more effective strategies and resources, it seems like there is a shortfall of genuine interest in sustainable change, primarily due to a couple of reasons.
When we operate under the influence of our ego, we tend to avoid challenges and discomfort at all costs. Doing things right and sustainable way vs. the quick and easy way presents challenges and some form of distress or discomfort because we must step out of what we know into the unknown.
We find ourselves in a world inundated with "to-dos," leaving us feeling overwhelmed and incapable of taking on additional responsibilities. Ironically, we fail to recognize that the key solution lies in eliminating unnecessary tasks from our overloaded plate of responsibilities. Achieving this requires heightened awareness to discern that many tasks we consider as "necessary" are dispensable.
Sadly, most people continue to take shortcuts regarding anything related to personal development, including communication. The fact remains the same: real change requires a lot of effort and patience.