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  • James McPartland

Communication Breakdowns: Listen & Respond

Ever been in a meeting where everyone speaks at once? Or maybe you called your boss and left a voicemail for him or her, only to have no response? Or perhaps the person you are talking to doesn't seem to understand what you're saying.

It's frustrating. It means one person isn't hearing what the other is saying, and it leads to misunderstandings and even conflict.

Communication breakdowns don’t just happen at work. They can happen in any kind of relationship. Your family, friends… it's not just with coworkers.

So how do we keep it from happening in the first place? Here are some key tips for minimizing communication breakdowns:

  1. Listen carefully. Take notes on what your partner says and ask clarifying questions when necessary. To ensure understanding, ask questions like, “What landed for you?” “This is what I heard, is that correct?

  2. Ask for clarification when needed. If there's still a gap between what you want and what they say they can do (or vice versa), ask questions to bridge the gap.

  3. Keep agreements. Ensure that both parties understand an agreement clearly and agree on its terms no later than 30 days after signing it so that one party can change their mind if necessary (but don't wait too long!).

  4. Take responsibility. Honor agreements made with others by following through on them as promised or renegotiating if necessary once negotiations start. Both parties should take responsibility for their part if there is a failure in the agreement so there's no blame. This is far more meaningful than achieving goals or expectations of each other.

Communication breakdowns are gonna happen. No way around that.

But they can be minimized simply by listening to what is said, and confirming what is received.

Ask for clarification, keep agreements, and take responsibility if agreements cannot be honored.

Communication is a two-way street. Do your part, and that’s half the win.


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