Communication Vs Clutter: how to prepare for success

Communication is a buzzword in the world of consulting and coaching. However, it is the subject of a lot of confusion and too often it is a misused concept and a misplaced term. I have discussed many times in public occasions the difference between Communication and Transmission, thus I will skip it here. In a way there’s more awareness now of such difference, which is a good thing. Notwithstanding, there’s still a strong need to get Communication back to effectiveness.

Why do we communicate, in the first place? Are there moments when we don’t? Let’s first answer the second: it’s a straight “no”. We cannot help communicating. That’s because Communication is the way we relate to the world around us and such relationship happens by the mere fact of existing. Therefore we communicate 24/7 every single day of our lives. Having said this, I will concentrate here on the part of our Communication that is “intentional”, i.e. the one that we can more or less control. The “why” of the latter can be rather complex, but we may safely say that we do it with the aim of satisfying our Basic Needs, in order to survive and possibly thrive. We don’t achieve that aim every time, sadly. This applies to individuals and to organizations alike. Especially nowadays, when apparently “Communication” has become easier. In fact, it has not. Today we have more clutter than Communication. Let’s see how we can improve the situation by clever preparation.

Communication has some elements that make it effective. Some of them are required even before we start what is usually intended as “communication”, i.e. exchanging information with someone else with a purpose. Let’s see them:

1. Clarity of mind regarding the objectives. It comes from reflection or intuition (although intuition only comes to a clear and calm mind, therefore here there’s even earlier work to do). On what purpose are you setting out to communicate? Have you an idea of the possible objectives of the other part? Did you take the time to reflect, or you are just hurrying? If the purpose is not clear, think again. Time is precious, yours and the other’s.

2. Careful and accurate choice of the interlocutor: how much information is circulated today within organizations that is not accurately and strictly targeted?  How much information is sent out “just in case”, since putting someone in Cc to an email is so easy? Irrelevant information does not make people more equipped to perform: it just makes the clutter worse and generates confusion, besides burning away people’s time.

3. Careful choice of the content. Not to be taken for granted: today most “communication” is a shapeless mound of miscellaneous, redundant or insufficiently prepared information. How many times do you see (daily, alas!) people having to get back more than once because they hadn’t taken time to think before a conversation? Be honest… Too much or insufficient information is equally ineffective and inefficient. Untimely information is too.

4. Mastery of the content: having clear what you want to talk about does not mean you can master the conversation in order to get the results you are looking for. Communication happens “with” the other, thus prepare for interaction and change (I will develop this in a subsequent post).

5. Appropriateness of the means. Not every Communication can be accomplished with any means: carelessness in the choice of means leads to miscommunication and frustration of expectations, besides the waste of time and energy. I won’t delve deep into that here, but technology has taken away a lot of effectiveness in Communication: it must be used with discernment, while considering that human communication is much more complex than just words.

Let’s stop here for the moment: Communication, that’s the meaning of the word, is about “doing something together with someone” for a purpose, i.e. generating a new meaning, a new shared reality, achieving a common goal, a mutual satisfaction. I am sure that  you see the value of all the above points, that are just preliminary to what we usually define “Communication”. Preventing clutter is the golden rule of Communication: careful planning using the 5 hints is a good way to do that. When you don’t have time to plan, it is very important that you have been a careful practitioner of the above principles for as long as possible, so that they will have become natural to you. If you are a leader, training your people in effective Communication and providing them with the right tools and environment to perform it is a smart choice to improve the performance and the efficiency in the use of resources. If you want to deepen your knowledge of ho communication works in real life, you can read my book “Sustainable Leadership. The CASE© Method: transforming conflicts with communication” and contact me through my website or Linkedin profile. See the Contact page on this website, for instance.

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