5 signs you have a communication problem and what to do about it

By: Ariana Friedlander Thursday July 25, 2019 0 comments Tags: Ariana Friedlander

By Ariana Friedlander

Rosabella Consulting

My mentor, Judith E. Glaser, is famous for saying that "Everything happens through conversation!" And when there's a communication problem, something critical is missing that inhibits your abilities to succeed individually, and collectively.friedlander-blog-photo.fixed

Communication problems can be very aggravating. Most people have visceral responses to communication mishaps. You know what I'm talking about: your heart rate increases, your stomach is in knots, heat rises within you, your thoughts become jumbled, and you're not feeling in control of yourself.

I just described the physiological response to a trigger that releases stress hormones like the neurochemical cortisol, in your brain. Cortisol causes the amygdala to go into high alert, which tells the primitive brain to preserve and protect your self-interests. And the primitive brain is not so good at engaging in a rational conversation.

Left unchecked and unaddressed communication problems can lead to some pretty costly issues down the line. It's best to resolve miscommunication before it escalates into something more damaging by getting control of your neurochemistry and working it out with the other people involved.

Here are 5 signs you have a communication problem:

  1. Missing Information -- You're missing information that is critical for doing your job right. It's aggravating when important things are not communicated and can result in lost productivity, decreased morale and expensive mistakes. Not to mention, it makes you look bad, which is infuriating because if it were up to you this wouldn't happen.
  2. Misunderstandings -- When your boss asked you for a report, you thought you knew what they were looking for. But when you turned it in and they got mad, you realized...whoa, there must be a misunderstanding here.
  3. Missed Opportunities -- You hear about a critical opportunity after the fact. Perhaps the opportunity and deadline were communicated via email with a poorly written subject line that got lost in your inbox. It's not like there was no communication at all, it just wasn't effective making it extra irritating. 
  4. Misalignment -- What seemed too good to be true, was! You found and committed to an opportunity that sounded perfect, it was just what you needed. Unfortunately, the excitement of all the possibilities caused you to make a lot of false assumptions about the situation. Once reality struck it was a hard truth to face.
  5. Misplaced Rage -- You take your frustrations at work home with you. Yelling at your kids or spouse for minor mishaps. You know you shouldn't be irritated, but your patients has run thin and your more bothered by how the staff meeting went than you let on.

So, what do you do about these miscommunication problems?

The first step is to acknowledge there's been a miscommunication and shift out of a stress response. That can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and assuming that the other person has good intentions. Other times, you may need to get away from the situation by going for a walk or consulting a trusted colleague or coach. This is an important step because you want to re-engage your executive brain to solve this problem.

Then you want to address the issue directly with the person involved. You may start by saying something like, "Hey, I think we've had a miscommunication here, can we back up a step so we are on the same page."

As you begin to address the problem, it is important to NOT point fingers. While it is natural to find blame in the actions (or lack there of) others, it's counter productive to resolving the problem. Sharing examples and making I statements enables the other person to listen without getting defensive. 

So instead of saying,: "You always make decisions that impact my job without communicating them to me directly." You can say,: "I felt really frustrated when I didn't know that the exec team decided to change our goal for this campaign because I shared the old goal with our sales reps at the meeting and now they're questioning me."

As you guide the conversation forward remember to practice conversational essentials like being open to influence, priming for trust, double clicking and listening to connect. That way you're co-regulating the neurochemistry of yourself and your conversational partner in the moment.

It is important to conclude the conversation by having a shared understanding of the next steps that will be taken to resolve the miscommunication. As a facilitator, this is an area where I often find I add a lot of value for my clients. People are so quick to want to get out of a meeting and go about getting things done on their to do list that they forsake clarifying what exactly should be on their to do list in the first place.

You know what happens next? Another miscommunication mishap! 

Ariana Friedlander

About the Author: Ariana Friedlander

Ariana Friedlander is the founder and principal of Rosabella Consulting, LLC, and has more than nine years of experience working with small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to create strategies for successful organizational growth.