Have you ever played the telephone game? This is a group of people sit in a circle or stand in a line. You start with one person whispering a phrase into their ear. The person who heard the message whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear. This goes on and on until the last person is told the message, and then that last person announces the message out loud. Almost every time, the message that was first given is nowhere close to what the last person says.
How can that happen? Communication is anything but easy especially when you involve a lot of people.
Doesn’t it feel like we are playing the telephone game in business sometimes? People hear different messages when in the same meeting. The message can get misconstrued when passed from one person to the next. This can happen when someone tells others what transpired during a meeting. If that person does a poor job conveying what was actually said, this can end up creating confusion. How do we stop playing the telephone game in business?
A few years ago I came across the four Cs of communication. The list has become invaluable to me as I work through communication issues in business.
Let’s flush each one out and see how each pertains to business communication.
Have you ever been in a meeting where the point of the meeting was very unclear? I can’t tell you how many times I have failed at not being clear in a meeting, then the meeting ends, and then nothing happens. Being clear means there is a clear goal communicated of what each person is expected to do after the meeting ends. Here are some basic tips for making an assignment clear before the meeting ends:
Stop the confusion by being clear.
Have you ever met someone who loves to verbally process his or her thoughts? If you are a verbal processor yourself, then you might be understanding when someone else does it. However, if you are not a verbal processor, you will likely become disengaged, or even annoyed, when someone talks through his o her thoughts with you. I am guilty of telling a lot of stories and verbally processing my ideas all at one time. This can create confusion and frustration for others. I’ve learned that it’s better for me to think, stay quiet, and then give direction on what I want with less words. Using less words helps people stay focused and helps prevent confusion for others.
I already mentioned that to be clear you need to define what completion looks like for a particular task. It’s very important that completion is defined because people have different interpretations on what completion looks like. Many times, details or accuracy is not meet because of different interpretations for completion. A business example could be a boss telling someone to clean up their work area but no specifics on what the boss wants the area to look like after it has been cleaned up. That employee might have straightened the work area up but items are visible, which was not what the boss wanted in their expectations. The boss should have communicated what a cleanup completion would be in their mind by saying “I want you to put all items away in the drawers, so the area looks cleaned up.” Being able to give a clear understanding of expectations for completion will help prevent a breakdown in communication.
Have you ever met someone who would rather give an incorrect answer instead of admitting that they don’t know the answer? Giving incorrection information to others chips away at the trust you have with them. It can take a long time to regain trust once you mislead someone with your incorrect information. I once worked with a guy who would give an answer to any question that he was asked. He appeared very knowledgeable because of his confidence when answering. Over time I noticed he never said “I don’t know.” One day I told him about my observation. I was even as bold to say “I think you make up half the stuff you say but no one calls you out because you act so confident in your answer. Am I right?” He smiled and responded with, “About 80% of the time I know the answer and the other 20% I make up.” Giving accurate information when asked a question builds trust. On the other hand, giving an incorrect answer instead of saying “I don’t know” can break trust or cause damaging consequences for others. It’s vital for your communication to be correct when others are depending on your answers to give them direction. It’s okay to say “I don’t know but I can find out” as a leader. A leader who is honest and humble will always be respected even when they don’t know the answer.
The four Cs are here to help communicate better in business. You can use the four Cs in your personal relationships as well. Use the four Cs as a reminder of how to improve communication with others in all areas of life.
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