The Problem in Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” –George Bernard Shaw

Think about the last conversation you had. The very last one. Was it with your spouse, your co-worker, your boss, your child? Do you believe it was a successful communication? Why or why not?communication 2

As the Shaw quote indicates, the likelihood is high that your last communication (and, well, most of your communication) has not truly been successful. When I say, “successful,” I mean (1) both parties felt heard; (2) both parties were heard; and (3) you each actually understood what the other was seeking to convey.

So why do we suffer this illusion that we have been successful in communication? There are a number of reasons, but they all boil down to one – World View. World View is the filter through which you see the world – your beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that color everything you see. Stephen Covey called it your “map”. Regardless of the word you use to describe it, it is the way you interpret events and communications. We interpret without even knowing it and then we think we have “heard” the other person. We are always interpreting. “We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.” Anais Nin.

So what can you do differently, to increase the success rate of your communications? First, slow down. We live in a fast-moving world. Everyone is busy and distracted by technology. Few of us take the time to really understand each other. So slow down and set down your technology. Step two, assume what the other person is saying may NOT be what you think it is. Become very curious. Ask questions. You will be amazed how much you did not understand. That alone will be enough to increase your understanding dramatically. For extra credit, you can also repeat back what you are hearing to make sure you are really understanding it. Good luck to you – in doing this you will differentiate yourself from most other people.

“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”  –Alan Greenspan
And if you are in Sacramento, come to the McLaren Coaching Communication workshop on July 14 or August 1. Learn how others are interpreting you and how to change your behavior to be more clearly heard and understood.  Learn more here:

About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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