This post should not be viewed as a list of excuses for being tactless and upsetting people. Rather, it should be seen as a realistic look at the key challenges that we all face when it comes to effective communication with other people.
Take a look at the obstacles below and see which ones are most likely to trap you. Then start to brainstorm what you can do to reduce the risk of the obstacle getting in the way of productive and successful relationships at work (or frankly, at home too!).
- Medium. In most types of work, the majority of communication is done remotely. This includes sending an email to someone less than 10 paces away! The problem this poses is that, when we interact face to face with someone, we are able to read their reactions on many different levels. This helps us to adjust our tact as required. An added problem is that many mediums introduce delay which can be used and abused.. The instantaneous feedback in a face to face meeting can be very useful in helping us to adjust our communication and be more tactful.
- Time. There never seems to be enough of it. Rushing from meeting to meeting, call to call. The demands to do more with less leave little time for the niceties, let alone enough time to treat people well. Relationships take time to build. Once established, good relationships can be quicker and more productive because the trust and expectations are well understood. Finding time to do this is a prudent investment.
- Selfishness. I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, but many people in the workplace are so focused on their own agenda that they fail to recognise that others have needs too. This focus creates blind spots which can make us stumble into situations without the least idea of what will offend someone else.
- Ignorance. Closely linked to the previous two obstacles, here I’m referring to the lack of knowledge of the other person. If you don’t know how they operate, what upsets them and what pressures they are under, it will be impossible to tell if your approach is going to be effective.
- Complexity. Once upon a time, working relationships seemed to be fairly straightforward. Everyone had a boss, and everyone had a clear job to do. There was little overlap and everyone else in the business knew what everyone did Now, matrix structures, global operations, and diverse cultures have added a significant level of complexity to the way we interact at work. This exacerbates the previous obstacles.
- Conflicting Agendas. Sometimes it appears incredible that people are working for the same organisation. You’d think that senior management would have resolved all their differences; everyone would be working towards aligned goals. A rare feature in organisational life, I would venture to suggest. This obstacle is compounded by the fact that often these are very difficult to spot until you get hit in the face by one.
- You. Yes, you can be your own obstacle. If you are proud of your style, saying it as it is, calling a spade a spade, this reinforces the behaviour likely to offend a more sensitive soul. For many direct and assertive people, not suffering fools is a badge of honour.
So, tell me, which ones are tripping you up the most? What can you do to start reducing their significance in your communication? Also, maybe I’ve missed something here. If you can think of other obstacles, please do get in touch.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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Other articles by Colin:
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