Misunderstanding is the natural state of our communication

A while back I attended a seminar geared toward helping us manage change better in our organizations. One of the many things worth remembering from that day is a phrase from Larry Wilson:

The natural state of communication is misunderstanding.

At first I didn’t understand what Larry meant. Lucky for me he continued to explain. What he said was we typically misunderstand more of what we hear than we actually understand. We might think we know what the other person meant but often we don’t.

An example:

A friend of mine works at a manufacturer where the boss let it be known he wanted every machine in the plant busy every day. So the plant manager staffed every machine every day and ran them no matter how much work they had. As a result they paid more in labor and other costs than if they just ran the machines they needed based on the orders they had.

The boss meant he wanted enough orders coming in to keep the plant working at full capacity. He meant that was his objective and he wanted people working toward that objective.

The plant manager thought he meant every machine should be busy, regardless of the amount of work available.

Big difference.

As we grow our businesses, we need to communicate with a lot of people. Customers, employees, vendors and others all play an important role in our success. And to work with them successfully we need to be able to communicate well.

So, remember Larry’s advice about communication. Remember that what you mean and what you say are not necessarily what the other people hear. They could be working from an entirely different meaning.

Take time to make sure you are communicating clearly with everyone no matter how you communicate. Consider how and what you say before you say it. If you’re writing something, read it aloud before sending it. And get confirmation from the other person before moving on. Use specifics and be as tangible as possible.

The better your communication is in your organization, the more success you will have in every way.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz