Five Communication Myths
Supposed solutions often root of problems
By: Steven Gaffney
When resolving problems or issues with others, we typically rely on one of the five myths of communication. We mistakenly attempt to use them as solutions, but they can actually compound the problem.
Myth #1: Time Heals all Wounds. The truth is: time usually deepens wounds. If time really healed all wounds, people wouldn’t frequently blame their behavior on childhood and past events. In fact, time can deceive us into thinking that problems with others have been resolved. But, once we see that person again or something happens to remind us of the past unresolved issues we become upset all over again. In essence, our unresolved past is lying around, waiting to strike at us in the present.
What to do? Don’t rationalize that just because someone isn’t bringing up an issue that they have let it go. They may feel awkward or embarrassed or may not know how to talk about it so they have decided to bury it, only to have it explode on the scene later. The key is to proactively bring up issues and resolve them.
Myth #2: Don’t Rock the Boat. If you don’t rock the boat, the boat will probably sink. Faced with an issue or problem, many people rationalize, “I’m not going to say anything. It’s not that big a deal. I don’t want to rock the boat.” The problem with this way of thinking is if we don’t say anything, the issue is unlikely to be resolved. Then what was once a small issue may fester and grow into a big problem.
What to do? As stated above, proactively bring up issues as they happen.
Myth #3: Be Diplomatic. If we are too diplomatic, the person may not get the point and nothing gets resolved. Have you ever had someone upset with you claiming that they told you about something and you didn’t do anything about it? In retrospect you realize that they might have brought it up, but he or she was so diplomatic, beating around the bush, that you missed the point.
What to do? Bringing issues up in an understanding way is important, just make sure the issue and what you want done are clear.
Myth #4: Sandwich Issues between Compliments. The “sandwich method,” whereby you place what you really want to say between two compliments, is so transparent that people immediately identify the strategy and feel manipulated. “I appreciate how hard you work, but blah, blah, blah… and thank you for working with me on this.” Such communication tricks can permanently damage relationships.
What to do? Tell people the truth. People are smart, and we’re usually lousy actors. Be honest and clear; get right to the point. When you have something nice to say, bring it up in a separate conversation or at least in a different part of the conversation not connected to a problem or something you want done.
Myth #5: More Communication Leads to Resolution. More communication can lead to wasted time and possibly more misunderstandings. Sometimes people believe and operate as if clarity will somehow magically emerge from the sheer volume of information and issues will get handled. But how often have you been in a meeting where people “talked about things” and nothing got resolved?
Consider this. If the solution were simply increased amounts of communication, wouldn’t you expect, for example, that e-mail, cell phones and video conferencing would have significantly reduced communication problems? Yet, in spite of all of these extra tools now available, it seems there are more misunderstandings, mistakes and conflicts than ever before. And people still complain that they don’t receive the feedback they need to do their jobs properly.
In fact, communication technologies can also help people spread misinformation with blazing speed, sometimes with devastating results. Communication technology is not inherently bad. The way people use it is often ineffective.
What to do? Instead of just increasing the amount of communication, make sure that people know how to effectively use the different styles of communication. If learned, these methods can make the critical difference in successfully resolving issues as they arise.