Welcome to this issue of our free E-zine, People Skills for Skilled
One of the greatest pitfalls to good communication occurs when people come across in a certain way, but
think that they’re making quite the opposite impression.
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Closing the Communication “Gap”
Vol.2, No. 3
We say we’re pretty aware of how we come off to others, but do you ever REALLY know for sure? In our one-on-one consulting and coaching, Jan and I have seen some enormous “gaps” between how professionals see themselves and how their colleagues view them. For example:
Gap 1, Self-impression: Sally, who proudly proclaims that she is a “direct communicator.” You’ll hear her say things like “I don’t pussyfoot around with people. If they’ve screwed up, I tell them so. I figure we’re all grownups. We ought to be able to take a little criticism and not get weepy or fall apart. Everybody always knows where they stand with me.”
Gap 1, Others’ impression: Sally is highly undiplomatic, insensitive, critical, caustic, and downright irascible. People like Sally invariably experience difficult interpersonal relationships that are also usually career-limiting.
Gap 1, The Cure: Sally, first realize how wide your “gap” is, then get some training in diplomacy and human relations to narrow it. You can always motivate people better with honest, appropriate praise than with criticism.
Gap 2, Self-impression: Fred, the smooth-as-silk job interviewer. Haven’t you experienced Fred, the interviewer who says all the right things (“My door is always open. I’m inclusive of everyone. I always seek my staff’s opinions and build consensus before making decisions. I have a consultative leadership style”)?
Gap 2, Others’ impression: Fred, when hired, slams his door shut (figuratively, if not literally), isolates himself in the workplace, plays favorites among his staff, and morphs into a closed-minded tyrant.
Gap 2, The Cure: Fred, be the person your staff selected during the interview process!
Gap 3, Self-impression: Joe, the financial genius who says he’s “OK with business presentations; they don’t bother me.” Because of his knowledge and experience, Joe absolutely has to be the main presenter to the Board each month.
Gap 3, Others’ impression: Joe is a terrible presenter. He puts everyone to sleep with long drawn-out sentences, little facial expression, static body language, and a droning monotonic voice. No one knows how to tell Joe that he HAS to improve. Finally, the Chair of the Board begins to complain about Joe’s poor presentations.
Gap 3, The Cure: Joe, Baby, Sweetheart! Think about what your audiences have to go through to get your message. Make it easier on them. Get some honest feedback from the group on what they need from you; then get some speaking training!
These are just a few of the dozens of communication “gaps” we live with all the time. Our message here, of course, is NARROW THE GAPS! People who have small or nonexistent “gaps” are the most effective communicators and relationship-builders. In today’s terms, these people are said to have high emotional intelligence. They have good personal insight and interpersonal skills.
By the way, it’s also possible for someone to have a narrow “gap” but still not be an effective communicator. Remember the person who once told you, “Yep, people always tell me that I’m a lousy listener, and I guess it’s true.” Or the presenter who admitted, “Yeah, my presentation style is pretty boring—but you can’t make this material interesting.” These people’s “gap” may be narrow, but that doesn’t make them good communicators. These people have a different kind of wide “gap”: the one between where they are and where they need to be. You close that one by getting your act together!
Think you may be suffering from a “gap” or two? Here are the telltale signs to look for. Check out your interpersonal dealings. Do you get a subtle sense that people aren’t seeing the real YOU? Are you experiencing quite a few strained relationships and frequent miscommunications? Do you feel other people can present the same ideas you do, but they get people to go along with them better than you do? Wide communication “gaps” occur mostly in our dealings with others. Look there first, then get feedback and cultivate personal insight.
If you’re serious about this “gap” business, try some of the following:
This leads to the major cure for closing the “gap”: cultivate accurate and honest personal insight and be determined to make what’s wrong right. Your friends, or specialists, can help here, too. Most of them will be only too happy to oblige you if they feel your request for feedback is genuine, and carries no potential for retribution.
Close the communication "gap," and you’ll make all your staff’s work lives better, including your own.
- Be alert to the signals people around you are sending. We call these “messages from the world.” For example, do people frequently ask you to repeat yourself? If so, maybe you’re not speaking loudly or clearly enough.
- Are your listeners glazing over in your presentations? Maybe they’re wanting more overt energy and variety from you.
- Are people telling you nonverbally that they’re feeling uncomfortable around you? Maybe you’re often sending off signals of impatience or criticism. The best remedy for this is to ask trusted friends for their perceptions of you.
- Do you keep having the feeling that you’re somehow “out of the loop” and not getting the information from others that you should? Ask yourself if your staff might feel intimidated by you. If so, it’s time for a frank staff meeting and some personal reassurances from you.
Yours in communication excellence!
Jan and Neal Larsen Palmer
Communication Excellence Institute
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