Communication: The root of many personal and workplace issues


I have been to many seminars and conferences on assorted topics throughout my career. Many of those have focused on improving relationships, working within a team, and developing a company culture. And in every one of those relationship-focused seminars, there is one obstacle that makes the list every time. Poor communication. I am positive that does not surprise anyone, so why is communicating effectively so difficult?

There is not just one answer to this question: that is why it is so difficult to correct. A deeper dive into how ineffective communication occurs may provide some insight.

Word Choice.

Communication mishaps can occur simply by using the wrong words to explain what you mean. My wife will tell you that I have a mental dictionary with my own definitions for what certain words mean. In short, I use words that I believe express my thoughts, yet she interprets those words differently.

Mode of Communication.

Have you ever sent an email when a longer conversation was needed? Or have you sent a text when a more detailed email was required? We have all been there, strapped for time, and fire off a text to communicate something that we are certain is clear—it is clear inside our heads anyway. We think we have conveyed what we mean, but the recipient of the text interprets the information completely different from what was intended.

Shortcutting Grammar Rules.

In this modern world, texting is king. With its own language where no punctuation used is often the norm, shortcutting the use of correct punctuation can create havoc in a conversation.

Here is an example of where the meaning completely changes without punctuation.

  • My three favorite things are eating my family and not using commas.

As opposed to

  • My three favorite things are eating, my family, and not using commas.


To communicate effectively, we must try to better understand what is being said or done. Here are three common assumption traps we all fall into.

  • We assume we know why someone is acting the way that they are. We assume that a person should know something because in that same situation you yourself would know.
  • We assume that a person did not do what was needed, but never followed up with questions to bring understanding. Assumptions then turn into perceptions, emotions attach to those perceptions, and then get shared with others. We are each unique. The world we live in is so interesting because we are all uniquely different. Individuality itself can make effective communication so difficult. We all have filters—emotions, biases, likes, and dislikes, fears and dreams, along with many other attributes—that lead us to assess or perceive situations in our own individual ways. Perceptions can be tricky to rely upon because they are often not based upon complete information or the facts of the situation. Perceptions are riddled with assumptions, inaccuracies, and emotions that then feed our opinions and attitudes.


If assumptions lead to perceptions, then perceptions can lead to erroneous opinions. When shared with others gossip ensues. Gossip itself is not always bad as it can be positive and uplifting to others. Negative gossip is cancer in any situation. In the workplace, negative gossip can be divisive, separate teams, degrade a company’s culture, damage reputations, and result in poor productivity. Social media channels, where people freely share their emotionally charged perceptions without regard for who they may hurt in the process, is a form of negative gossip.

It may seem that all is lost when it comes to effective communication but rest assured that when you bring a level of awareness to how you communicate, it can make an enormous difference. Here are some helpful hints.

  • Ask yourself if the mode of communication is the most appropriate mode. Should you send an email, place a call, or meet face-to-face. Most of the time I have found that an actual conversation works best.
  • Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding. An example is, “So what you are saying is……is that correct?”
  • After drafting an email or text, take a few minutes to reread to ensure that you are saying what you mean and that everything is spelled correctly. Autocorrect can wreak havoc when communicating via these platforms. Ask yourself if what you are communicating is building someone up or tearing them down. If your answer is tearing down. Pause and decide whether you have all the information. Do you need to ask more questions? If you do have all the information, consider rewording to neutralize the tearing down and impact to the relationship.
  • Do not assume anything. Another opportunity to ask questions to clarify and get facts.
  • Do not attach emotion to what anyone says until you are clear about the facts; every story has two—or more–sides.

Effective communication leads to clarity in personal relationships. Creating stronger teams and harmony within a department which adds to a company’s success. And isn’t that a win for all? I think so.


Vice President of Human Resources

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