How often do we see the term “excellent verbal and written communication skills” listed on a resume? I don’t have the exact numbers but I would bet it is on at least 75% of the ones I see. If all of these people are experts in communicating, why do so many problems occur in the workplace because of miscommunication? Perhaps the real meaning of the word has been lost in this age of texts, tweets, posts, etc. I think many people confuse the word communication for the word information.
While doing some research for this blog, I came across one specific definition multiple times that really fits the message I am trying to express here: communication is a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This led me to question how much of what we think we are communicating has “shared understanding.” I know I am guilty of sending a message and assuming the recipient understood my meaning when, in fact, their interpretation was not even close to what I intended.
The following story illustrates, in a very funny way, the problem of miscommunication. *Please note that I did not write this story and I was unable to find the direct source to give credit to*
Email from CEO to Manager:
Today at 11 o’clock there will be a total eclipse of the sun. This is when the sun disappears behind the moon for two minutes. As this is something that cannot be seen every day, time will be allowed for employees to view the eclipse in the parking lot. Staff should meet in the lot at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse, and giving some background information. Safety goggles will be made available at a small cost.
Email from Manager to Department Head:
Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the parking lot. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will appear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The CEO will deliver a short speech beforehand to give us all some information. This not something that can be seen every day.
Email from Dept. Head to Floor Manager:
The CEO will today deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the form of an eclipse. This is something that cannot be seen every day, so staff will meet in the parking lot at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.
Email from Floor Manager to Supervisor:
Ten or eleven staff are to go to the parking lot, where the CEO will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn’t happen every day. It will be safe, and as usual it will cost you.
Email from Supervisor to Staff:
Some staff will go to the parking lot today to see the CEO disappear. It is a pity, this doesn’t happen every day.
I am not going to attempt to teach anyone how to be effective at communicating; there is a plethora of information out there regarding the subject. So what’s the point of my ramblings? Only to say that you may write well and speak eloquently but that doesn’t mean you have excellent communication skills.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Director of Operations
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