It is amazing not only how quickly this internet debate went viral, but the fact that people truly do hear the recording differently.
It brings to light the age-old issue of communication breakdown.
Have you ever told someone something – only to later find that he or she completely misunderstood you?
The world is full of distractions, both external and internal. Moreover, everybody’s brain is different—in how it works and the information and experiences it has collected. Thus, what you think you are saying may mean something quite different to someone else.
Once you are aware of some of the obstacles to communication, you will be far more understanding when it fails — and be able to communicate more effectively by averting common errors.
Think about what is going on at the moment:
- Does the other person appear to be distracted? If you need to repeat yourself, don’t be annoyed. Repetition is a good strategy for making sure you are understood.
- Are you keeping it simple? Reduce your thoughts to the least number of words that work. See if a bare-bones message will suffice, at least for now, but don’t leave out background or critical details!
Also, consider these barriers:
Cubicles, walls, wings, and doors do exactly what they are designed to do – divide. While these structures are essential to ensure personal workspace, adequate concentration, and private conversations, they can pose as a hindrance to communication.
In our ever-evolving, diversified society, we are seeing more and more people entering the workplace who have English as a second language, which can become a barrier. Additionally, employees from different regions in the same country, or even the same city, can have different styles of communicating and use different words with the same meaning.
Status barriers are evident in organizations and can affect the way messages are received and interpreted.
To overcome status barriers, managers should reiterate that the organization is a team and each member’s role is significant and beneficial to the organization regardless of rank.
Gender barriers typically occur in organizations where there is a disproportionate number of male individuals to female individuals and vice versa. The minority gender in an organization might feel uncomfortable communicating with their counterparts.
To eliminate gender barriers, HR managers should ensure that both male and female employees feel of equal status and are empowered to communicate openly.
In essence, we must consider that whether you are Team Laurel or Team Yanny, the odds are good that you are interacting with people who are hearing the exact opposite. Take advantage of this opportunity to consider how you are communicating and to improve your methods.
Marchena Chendeka, DATIS
Ingrid Wickelgren, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Ruth Sherman, Ruth Sherman Associates, LLC / Luntz, Frank; Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear