Combat misunderstandings

N°186b – Synopsis (8p.) – Listening Skills
Combat misunderstandings
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Many psychological traps make interpersonal communication difficult. How can you combat misunderstandings and communicate better to facilitate interactions?

Businesses increasingly depend on the quality of interpersonal communication to operate effectively.

Indeed, today’s agile companies want employees in the field to be autonomous and take initiative rather than simply follow orders. So, to ensure the relevance of their initiatives, employees must internalize the company strategy and business leaders must learn to communicate the strategy in all its subtlety and complexity.

By the same token, different functions and departments must increasingly collaborate with one another to maximize the agility of the business. In a fast-changing environment where complex transformations must be made rapidly, there is little time to circulate information through traditional hierarchical channels. In this context, it is essential that different teams successfully communicate with and understand one another.

However, good communication is very tricky. How many leaders have seen their messages distorted or sorely misinterpreted? How many seemingly reasonable, fact-based discussions turn sour because of underlying emotional issues? How many meetings end in stale-mates where people take sides without really listening to one another?

The truth is that misunderstandings are omnipresent in almost all communication situations, for the simple reason that human interactions are naturally strewn with many psychological traps. For example, to protect ourselves, we tend to put a negative slant on what other people say in order to prepare for the worst and be ready to react in the face of any aggression. Similarly, we are careful to dissimulate thoughts we suspect might be upsetting to our counterparts or provoke an argument. Yet, these quite natural defensive reflexes do not facilitate transparent communication and actually cause frequent misunderstandings!

Effective communication is a fundamental leadership skill that must be developed proactively. Indeed, leaders must possess more than charisma and eloquence to make themselves heard.

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