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April 13, 2010

Myth #2 – Are we myth-ing the boat when it comes to communication?

Last post, we talked about the downside of assumptions or myths and how they can get in the way of leading effectively.  Here’s the second myth – people won’t interpret situations or give them meaning if leaders don’t talk about them. As my mom believes, if it isn’t discussed, it doesn’t exist, right?

Think of a time when someone has done something to you but they didn’t apologize or acknowledge it or say anything to you about it.  You then see that person, and it is so awkward, with this ‘thing’ out there like an elephant in the room.  Or, it’s infuriating, as you are sitting there thinking to yourself, ‘I can’t believe he isn’t saying anything about this… he’s going to blow this off… he thinks I’m going to just sit here and pretend it didn’t happen.’

How did you feel? What were you thinking about the person? I imagine…..rude, avoidant, trying to pull something over me…yes, those are often the attributions we make when someone slights us.  But they’re just that… attributions. Interpretations.  Now, they may actually be true.  We all know the person who did that to us who really is a jerk, so labeling him as a jerk here actually fits!

You can see how we make interpretations, whether right or wrong, no matter the situation.  That is human nature.  Our brains are wired to interpret information and find meaning in it.

So whether people forgot to tell us something or whether people choose not to tell us something… how people communicate is always a choice (whether they intend it or not).  No communication doesn’t mean people are thinking about or trying to figure out what it means or ‘why’.  When we don’t communicate, people will just come up with their own meaning.  My mom is learning this slowly.  While she still has trouble understanding what I do, she does remember my book’s title, You Can’t NOT Communicate, and is working hard to apply the principle.

What might you be communicating that you don’t intend?


- David Grossman

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