Bridging the Communication Gap

Miscommunication can be costly… but can also be minimized

Miscommunication can be a costly occurrence.

Defined simply by Merriam Webster as failure to communicate clearly, the causes of miscommunication can vary – lack of forethought or preparation, poor verbal skills or intentional deceit on the part of the sender; lack of comprehension, poor listening skills or distraction on the part of the receiver.

In an on-line article, author and conflict resolution expert Tristan Loo suggests that miscommunication is also the primary contributing factor to conflict.

“Miscommunication opens up the triangle of other factors that inevitably leads to conflict,” he says.

Loo goes on to explain that people tend to fear the worst outcome.

In miscommunication the mind will fill in missing information with its own creative insight, which is often fear-based. Our minds naturally seek logical explanations to events as well. Absent those explanations, our minds frequently switch to a fear-based mode in which we satisfy our need for answers with that of assumption.

Once we lock-into our assumptions the tendency is to believe them as truth, thus resulting in conflict.

The Solution – Receptivity Tests
In the business development or sales world, a great deal is lost to conflict and misunderstanding. Buyers tend to buy from people they like and trust, but miscommunication, as noted above, breeds uncertainty, conflict and distrust.

To bridge the gap, Loo suggests people adopt an open mind with respect to alternative possibilities. To facilitate this, increased use of clarifying questions or receptivity tests by all parties during need assessments, business meetings, sales calls, conversations and presentations is the key.

Since it is an accepted principle that the primary sender of communication must take the responsibility for the quality of the communication, then the person who is leading, selling, promoting or requesting help should be the one to initiate these clarifying questions. Often referred to as “trial closing questions, these little tests or queries are not geared toward seeking commitments or decisions, but rather toward seeking opinions or confirmation. When properly used, these simple questions will confirm both understanding and receptivity. Some examples:

  • “What do you think so far?”
  • “Would that be helpful?”
  • “How would that work for your organization?”

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