3 Communication Breakdowns Where Your Body is Present but Your Mind is Disengaged

Have you ever noticed that some people don’t have to get up to leave the room? Their communication skills are so poor that no matter what is being said, they don’t get it.

Maybe they were never taught appropriate, effective communication skills. Or they just don’t care.

Either way it can be devastating to work with or live with those types of people.

In last week’s Tuesday Tip, I gave you five of the major ways that communication breaks down and brings about nasty consequences. You may know some people who fall into some of those holes, and you may also be guilty of doing some of those things.. For heaven’s sake, stop it!

Here are a few more communication breakdowns that you must avoid.

► 6. Right-Wrong Thinking

It’s an easy trap to fall into. The minute you believe your way is the right way, all other ways become wrong. You start putting your energy into defending your rightness and attacking the other person’s wrongness.

And that’s bound to hurt the communication process, your relationships, and any progress you hope to achieve.

In fact, it’s the very thing that is paralyzing the President and our Congress. No matter what a Democrat says, no matter how right it might be … the Republicans are bound to say it’s wrong. And no matter how right and necessary a Republican program might be, the Democrats will invariably say it’s wrong.

To get away from a right-wrong thinking process, you need to realize that your way may be effective. It may be valid, but it may not be right. There’s almost always another way and even a better way to do something. So find it … by listening to the other person instead of trying to show him why he’s wrong.

For example, the first telephones were a good way, a better way, even a great way to communicate. However, history has proven that the first telephones were certainly not the right way or even the best way to communicate. By comparison with today’s telephones, they were terrible.

This basic concept holds true with everything you do, from manufacturing to customer service. If you get caught in the trap of doing your job the same way you’ve always done it … because you believe it is the right way to do it … you paralyze all future progress. Your creative juices stop flowing.

To get away from this right-wrong communication breakdown, if you fall into this trap much too often, try these two responses once in a while.

The next time you catch yourself saying, “That’s right” or “I’m right,” tell yourself “There may be a better way and I will look into it.”

The next time you catch yourself trying to prove to someone else how wrong he or she is; respond by saying, “That is an interesting way of looking at things. I’ll have to give that some more thought.”

► 7. Partial listening

Author and friend David Levin calls it the “listen-and-read disconnect.”

You may be on the phone with your spouse. She’s talking; you’re listening. And suddenly she says, “You’re reading something on your computer, aren’t you?” You’re busted.

As Levin asks, “How can she tell? The answer is, you’re not that good at it, but neither is anyone else. I’ve yet to meet the person who can truly pull off ‘listen and read.’ And based on my experience on how well it goes over, I’d say it’s not worth it. Probably best to just not try it at all.”

So true! Whenever you’re supposedly listening to somebody and trying to do something else at the same time, like checking your email or looking for something around the house, you’re sending a message that says “I don’t care that much about you or about what you have to say.”

As my Tuesday Tip friends, let me tell you that is one message you don’t ever want to send.

By contrast, one of my customers got it right. As Paul Snyderman of Merck pharmaceuticals told me, “Our Senior Marketing Manager spoke with great passion about the need to get closer to the customer and directed all of us to meet with our customers. In fact, he directed us to spend at least 15% of our time with our customers. We are to meet with our customers … whether face to face, on field trips, or via phone … to just listen.”

If you want a team that works, a relationship that works, you must abandon the myth that you can get by with, that you can even be successful by doing, partial listening. The truth is you can’t.

► 8. Assumptions

Angelo Donghia, a prominent interior designer in the 1970’s and 80’s, had it right when he said, “Assumption is the mother of screw-up.” All too often we assume the other person will understand us rather than ensure his/her understanding.

It’s one of the skills I teach in my keynote, half, and full day program on The Power of Partnership: 7 Keys to Better Relationships and Greater Teamwork.

If you’d like to read more about the program, click here.

If you’d like to discuss the program with me, call 1-800-621-7881

For example, there was the assumption of understanding when Cathy Groves’ husband went to the lumber store and saw some lovely short pieces of wood in a bin behind the counter. So he asked the clerk, “Do you mind if I come around the counter and poke through your shorts?”

There was the assumption of understanding when a man came home and was greeted by his wife dressed in a very enticing outfit. “Tie me up,” she purred, “and you can do anything you want.” So he tied her up and went golfing.

When you simply assume the other person will understand you, you’re headed for trouble.

Consider these two scenarios that David Levin lays out in one of his books. The first one: Your buddy buys himself a new boat. Naturally he’s excited about it and so one afternoon over a beer he talks your ear off about it.

The second one: Everyone is called together for a big meeting at work. When you get there, the BIG BOSS gets up and starts things off with a “funny” story about the trouble he’s having finding storage for his new 50-foot yacht.

These are both scenarios of someone talking about their boat. But from the standpoint of connecting with others, they couldn’t be more different. The first scenario … at worst, is slightly annoying … but could be fun, depending on how you feel about your friend and boats. The second scenario turns you totally off.

You feel like the BIG BOSS is rubbing his BIG YACHT in your face. In a sense, his “funny” store inadvertently communicated, “I don’t understand your world because I live in a completely different world than yours.

In both cases, the speaker assumed you would get the intended message … that he was excited about his new boat … even though he did very little thinking about how his message would be received.

So please, please, please, think about what you’re going to say … before you say it. And think about how the other person will interpret your message … before you send it.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 965 – 3 Communication Breakdowns Where Your Body is Present but Your Mind is Disengaged

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