Sometimes our perceived weaknesses are the source of our greatest strength.
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When I think of challenging work and personal situations, many stem from a lack of communication.
May you have had someone get upset with you for being late to a lunch appointment. I know I have. In one case, that person would have been less upset had I told him I was running late. In another case, I sent a text message a few hours before but accidentally texted a landline. I assumed that sending the text was communication; that was not enough.
Communication is a two-way conversation. I failed to ensure that my friend acknowledged receiving the text message. He was pretty upset when I arrived 30 minutes late. I was confused and asked what was wrong. He shared that he did not appreciate I was late and did not tell him. I was confused. So I showed him the text message I sent. He looked at it and let me know that it was his landline. He found it comical, and his anger subsided. It could have avoided him brooding for 30 minutes had I ensured he acknowledged. (If you’re reading this, my friend, I’m so sorry.) I should have called him after realizing I had not received a response within one hour, and that still would have been plenty of notice.
As I mentioned before, communication is a two-way conversation. Both parties need to send a message, and there needs to be acknowledgment.
We are probably familiar with military terminology. One person may say, “Do this action.” The other person responds, “Roger.” The initiating party sent a request message. The second party sent an acknowledgment message. There will be subsequent communication. The second party may say, “Completed.” The first party may say, “Well done” or “Roger.” The first party acknowledges that he got a status update on the initial request.
The level of communication will depend on the situation. If it is a team that is meeting a deadline, the team should be communicating daily and preferably throughout the day. Weekly communication may be appropriate in a superior-subordinate relationship or between groups. It depends. If the silence feels deafening, the level of communication needs to increase.
Again it depends. For example, technical teams should talk about technical designs and issues. This team may appreciate seeing quarterly sales reports but may be annoyed by daily reports. There need to be relevant messages sent to make two-way communication effective.
Sometimes there is an urgency to communication. “We are in danger” should be a higher priority message than “We are out of milk.” Communicating when you, your team, your business, or your family are in a crunch or a crisis is critical. Being silent during this time will increase worry, frustration, and lack of confidence. Saying nothing or waiting to say something could result in being “chewed” out by a boss or an angry spouse (for example).
Speak up. Come with solutions, though. Tell a lead, “That big sale we were looking forward to fell through,” sounds disappointing. If we add, “But, we asked the lead for a referral. We initiated contact with the lead they gave. We will keep you appraised.” Sharing solutions will help reduce frustration and worry while showing you are on top of the situation.
Yes! You can get there one step at a time.
You do not need to be an extrovert to be a good communicator. Introverts can be good communicators too. I get it if you read this and think, “I am scared to talk to people.” I used to be that way too. With practice, you can become a good communicator.
Suppose you go to a fast-food restaurant. Wait until you get your food and ask for extra ketchup. Is the restroom dirty? Ask for the manager and mention that. Try ordering more than once. Order your sandwich, eat a little, then order a drink. The more times you practice talking, the more comfortable you get.
Then level up little by little. Share an idea at the next team meeting. Tell your coworkers when they drop something. Practice little by little. As you become more confident, you can tackle situations with higher stakes. You may become the hero and save the day by speaking up and presenting solutions.
Even if you think you lack at communicating, it does not have to be your Kryptonite. Even extroverts can lack at it. They may be outgoing enough to set a lunch date but forget to let the person know when they are running late. The more you communicate, the more effective you will become. Over time you will build a superpower.
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