In the workplace, insensitive interactions can and do occur, even in organizations that value a positive culture. In this interview, Talya Meyerowitz, a corporate communications coach, consultant and EO speaker, offers proactive solutions to eliminate unhealthy communication habits.
What are the most common causes for miscommunication between co-workers?
TM/ “I’ve found many people want to create a ‘battle of different sexes,’ so to speak, and argue that men and women’s communication styles are inherently different and create the biggest clash. Others blame differences of race, generation or hierarchy between colleagues. I believe there’s danger in assuming that any individual acts a certain way based on a specific demographic; each person has their own style of communication and method for approaching conflict. The biggest problem I see is stress combined with an unwillingness to listen to one another; this produces the most dangerous situations. This is also exacerbated by technology, where emails and text messages are often misinterpreted. When all of this is combined with most people’s natural tendency to want to avoid conflict, things get left unexplained and everyone is left wondering about true intent.”
With that in mind, how does one begin to tackle this problem?
TM/ “In the words of Stephen Covey: ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ Depending upon the extent to which you’ll be interacting with someone, you’ll need to decide just how well you need to understand how they communicate. Begin at the ground level and make sure the person in front of you actually fits the description you’ve assumed to be true. In this way, you acknowledge their individuality while also taking into consideration how their upbringing has impacted how they present themselves. In getting to know your team, which requires a deeper understanding of each person, you’ll get to know what makes each person ‘tick.’ What are their individual values and personal communication needs? It’s important to create a safe space for this conversation so everyone is heard and respected. While this process can seem time-consuming upfront, the long-term payoff is huge!”
How can teams incorporate this understanding into their workweek?
TM/ “As a DiSC coach, I often recommend that teams participate in evaluations and have individuals post their results near their workspace. You could even create a ‘cheat sheet’ of everyone’s profile and post it in a central location. The more open we can be about the ways we like to communicate, the higher the probability of our organizations being more productive, cohesive and collaborative. Most importantly, I think companies can come to an agreement of what communication around conflict within their workplace should look like. Once everyone becomes aware of their own values and biases while communicating, as well as those of their colleagues, teams are better prepared to use each other’s strengths to solve challenges as efficiently as possible.
“If management can emphasize the importance of all parties reaching a mutually-beneficial decision, regardless of the situation, they will create a completely different culture of communication within the company, one that’s far better equipped to work through misunderstandings, differences of opinion and the fear of conflict. A solution-based approach is always the best choice.”
Talya Meyerowitz (pictured) has spoken at multiple EO events, including the 2015 Global Leadership Conference. Learn more about Talya’s communication strategies by visiting www.ARespectfulWorkplace.com, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.