Correct Inevitable Communication Problems

Last week’s column about communication drew some heavy response, which supplied me with an abundance of follow-up material. The essence of the column was that preconceived notions determine to a large degree the way people accept information – or refuse to accept information. A corporate CEO, a church member and a company employee are three people who gave me specific examples of communication problems.
The CEO said his company introduced a new technical system and method of doing things, beginning with Group A at one of the company’s locations. Now that the group feels comfortable with the system and sees its validity, some group members have the responsibility to help Group B at another location implement the system. Therein lies the problem. First of all, Group B is feeling rather territorial about being trained by Group A. Secondly, Group A has probably been too assertive and too blunt in instructing Group B. Therefore, a chasm has been created and the company now has to build a bridge.
The church member told me the members were split over whether to support their pastor or ask him to resign. Under the circumstances, the pastor felt led to leave. Now, according to this member, “It will be extremely difficult for any potential new pastor to get called to our church. And, if someone does come, I feel sorry for him, considering the mountain he is going to have to climb. Some things require a lot of prayer and this is one of them!”
The company employee said that due to some advanced training and expertise she gained, the general manager came directly to her for help in solving a problem rather than contact her through her supervisor. Now the supervisor feels threatened and this has created a communication barrier.
These three scenarios are extremely important to the people involved and are widely dittoed in all areas of life. So, what can we do when such situations occur? For one thing, we need to realize we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. When we recognize such situations, everyone involved needs to take some responsibility to make things right. Rather than spending time, energy and talent pouting and arguing about where to place the blame, why not do the logical thing of mending fences and working together to make things right?
The scenarios represent people taking inevitable problems that will occur and making them worse instead of meeting them head on and correcting them. The things that have made them worse include power struggles, conflicting motives and lack of accountability. Finding successful models and learning from them can help solve the scenarios. Others who have run into such situations and successfully built on them have done so by (1) setting common objectives and goals; (2) defining roles and responsibilities; (3) creating action plans and implementing them.
The CEO’s scenario especially spotlights the fact that people don’t like to be told what to do. Quite often when people are told what to do in a directive fashion their basic reaction is to rebel. Resistance and negativity are increased by a lack of understanding and buy-in to what is being said. If you deliver only the blunt “what” of a message, people will take a stance to protect themselves, becoming what we call “defensive.” If you deliver the “why” along with the “what,” then you can help people reduce their resistance. Unfortunately, when one is not trained in communication and is in a hurry to get things handled, a poor outcome often results. Keep in mind that people cooperate better with people they like. People will like you a lot more when you explain the “why” as you deliver the “what.” Take time to do this and you will eliminate misunderstandings, cultivate cooperation and build better relationships.
To hear more about communication, I invite you to attend the “Lunch and Learn” meeting at which I will be presenting “Are We Communicating Yet?” on Thursday, May 5, from 11:30-1:30. There is no charge for the event at the Mountain National Bank Operations Center in Sevierville (TN) and you can make reservations by phoning MNB at (865) 428-7990 before May 2.

Carl Mays, author of 13 books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and


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