Swimming in "Missed-Communication"?

In the international workspace (and in our personal lives) – people are often affected by lack of effective communication – a.k.a. “missed-communication”-  spending time and energy complaining about it and suffering because of it. 

Does it ever feel like people are speaking about different issues than the one at hand, and/or they want to win rather than come to the best solution, stay stuck in their point of view or opinion, and sort of (or completely!) miss each other and the subject?

How many times have you:

  • “Collaborated” on a project where you feel there is more competition than working together and the project turns energetically sour;
  • Sat through a meeting where you notice that nobody is really listening or talking about a different issue, or colleagues are typing on their handheld devices;
  • Watched co-workers communicate by “talking the loudest”/monopolizing the conversation or bullying to get ahead and get their point of view endorsed;  
  • Engaged in a one-to-one conversation that goes nowhere and is unsatisfying – the type of conversation that reminds you that the environment has no space for you, your great ideas, thoughts, and values;
  • Observed that a lot of organizational communication is about the grapevine and rumours;
  • Checked-out or switched to a superficial tone when you realize that nobody is really listening, and, it seems, nobody cares.  

Bottom Line: "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -Franklin Covey

If you are like most people you respond by either:

1.  Blaming others:  If you are in this group – you locate the problem in others, become more cynical about communication in general and stop really caring about communication as a tool – and just stay focused on not losing – you try to stay strategic about communication in order to win.

2. Blaming yourself:  If you are in this group – you locate the problem in yourself and start to wonder if if there is something wrong with you, and the way you communicate.  You question your own abilities and your perception of the communication reality that surrounds you.  You may become less interested in communication because you see the environment as “unsafe” and begin to lose confidence in yourself.

What is communication anyway?

Most people see communication as a static one-way linear interaction.  Something like this: 

Sender  ------------->  Receiver

Today, effective communication is now thought to be a shared field experience (2) , represented by the diagram below.


The place where the circles overlap is where the human connection takes place and hence where there is powerful communication.  To improve communication and make it effective for everyone, the space of shared field experience and human connection must be expanded as much as possible.


In this communication model – it helps when the following qualities(1) are present:

Openness: your willingness to open yourself to other person – their being and ideas;

Empathy: your ability to understand and share the feelings of another;

Supportiveness: your capacity to give verbal and non-verbal encouragement and assistance to another person;

Positive-ness: your ability to provide verbal and non-verbal cues that express or imply affirmation, agreement and permission to another person;

Equal-ness: verbal and non-verbal cues that allow you and who you are communicating with to feel like peers during the moment of communication (i.e. putting aside differences and “rank” during the conversation to have a shared and mutually beneficial experience);

Redundancy: your talent to creatively repeat and illustrate the same information in different ways to appeal to many different types of learning styles and to solidify your main point during communication.

OK. Wait a minute.  The reality of the international workspace is that all this great and thoughtful information just does not feel relevant or safe. Communicate openly at work? If you incorporated all these qualities into your communication style – does it feel like you would commit organizational suicide?

So what can you do?

If you find yourself in an environment that is not supportive to effective communication, then you have to be smart and discerning about how much to integrate into your work communication - both verbal and email. 

However, most people just get caught and stay stuck in their organizational context - and develop themselves to the level of the organization and go no further.  This is fear-based and not that effective for the long-term - because personal skills and talents belong to the individual.  So it is a good investment to develop skills that you value personally and share them with your organization.

If you value effective communication and want to develop this part of your skill-set  – START NOW, START SMALL and STAY FOCUSED ON YOURSELF and YOUR GOALS.  

Here is a 2-step exercise might help you begin improving your skills. 

Step 1: Uncover your key values around communication

a. Ask yourself the following questions to uncover your core values:

"What do I want people to feel after talking with me?"


I want people to feel listened to” = listening is a core value

I want people to feel like they can trust me” = trust is a core value

Step 2: Make two key commitments

Based on your core value(s), make two key commitments that are simple enough that you can keep them and put them into action immediately.



1. To be a better listener, I will not interrupt other people for one week.

2. I will find and read two articles about how to be a better listener during this week


1.  I will commit to telling two non-threatening people (one from personal life and one from professional life) more of my truth this week.

2.  I will not speak badly or gossip about other people for one week.  If I need to vent, I will write down my thoughts in a private journal.

Step 3: Review and integrate 

Review and write down changes:  How does making changes in how you communicate with others shift how people respond to you and communicate with you?  What do you notice?


Are you ready to develop your skills and talents just because they are important to you and your personal vision, rather than just for your work role and identity?