Communication – Do You Understand?

Posted: by North Coast TAFE

If you search ‘effective communication in the workplace’ on the World Wide Web, you’re likely to get over 3 million hits. Clearly, it’s a much talked about topic, and there are a large number of tips, hints and solutions available for you to try out.

Here’s one that you’re unlikely to find in that digital lucky dip:

More time. This is the most ignored but most effective solution to poor communication.

Today’s workplace is frenetic, no matter whether you’re in a small business, a large corporation or anywhere in between. Time is the one workplace asset that is arguably the most valuable in communication, yet is the least valued.

Ask yourself – how much of your time is spent in fixing up mistakes, double- or triple-handling tasks and project activities or dealing with conflict?
The chances are that all of that time could have been saved if you had invested more time in the beginning to ensure communication had actually occurred. Not information-transfer. Not telling someone what to do. Not hearing an instruction and acting on it. Communication.

Welcome to Communication 101.

In the diagram, Person A has content to communicate to Person B. Person A’s brain codes that content into speech, or text, or some other transfer medium and transfers it to Person B. Person B receives and decodes the content. Communication is complete – or is it?

As you can see in the diagram, the two images representing the content as understood by each person are quite different. This happens practically every single time two people ‘communicate’.
How do you ensure the two understandings of the content (= meanings) match and therefore communication has actually occurred?

Well, ask yourself another question – which person has the true picture of the original content? Obviously, Person A. So, clearly, it must be Person A who is responsible for checking that Person B’s understanding matches Person A’s. Not the other way around.

And that’s where more time needs to be spent – and hardly ever is. The inevitable result is time-consuming mistakes and mishandling.

Try it for yourself next time – if you’re Person A, who has just ‘communicated’ something to someone, ask them this question: “What do you think I meant by that?”
Then see how long it takes to sort out true understanding.

Communication experts call this ‘sharing meaning’ and it is the single most prized outcome you can have between two people – or groups of people. You just have to invest more time in achieving it.
If you want to explore communication solutions for your workplace, call us at North Coast TAFE to discuss customised approaches.

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