This weeks thought came as a result of a few encounters this week where communication was lacking. And it’s not limited to this week, it’s something I encounter and even catch myself doing often: operating off of assumption. We assume someone understands, or knows how we feel, or is aware of our expectations, heard us say something, or a number of different instances. When in reality, we didn’t communicate, or ask them to communicate, the very thing that we are assuming is understood. I’ve even caught myself having expectations of my kids and in the midst of my frustration with their failure, I’m forced to accept reality that I had neglected to or forgotten to communicate that very expectation.
Many managers and leaders are very visionary and they know exactly what they want to see, but until that vision is clearly communicated to and understood by those they lead, that vision will never evolve into venture, and never become a reality. The communication may take place by showing them, telling them, or writing it for them, but at some point it must be clearly spelled out.
An alarming number of marriages are failing today and if we were to peal back the layers of the onion, we’d discover that communication is one of the core problems. We hear often, “she should know how that makes me feel”, or “he just doesn’t know how to love me”. At that point my questions are: Did you communicate how it makes you feel? And, have you communicated to him how to love you? Or, are you just assuming that he or she should know? I’m a statistic in the failed marriage arena and I’m determined that it will not happen a second time. My soon to be wife Dana and I are being intentional in teaching each other how to love each other and not assuming that “she should just know” or “he should just understand.” Regardless of your level of connection, it will never be healthy to expect your spouse to know something that has never been communicated to them. Sure, at times they may, or even should, sense something because of their special connection with you, but that sense can be confirmed by simply choosing to communicate the confirmation, and throw out assumption and uncertainty.
I’ve spoken at a couple of schools where I was scheduled to speak to a large number of, or even all of, the student body, and I arrived at the front office and although the event planner or administrator knew I was coming, the office staff had no idea who I was or why I was even there. That in itself, communicated to me that they saw very little value in my time there and hadn’t even made it a topic of conversation or an item on the agenda. And I’m not throwing stones. I’m simply giving an example of how failure to communicate generated an awkward and uncomfortable moment. I probably over-communicate at times, as I like to confirm leading up to, and then re-confirm the morning of or evening before; what time I’ll arrive, what I’ll be driving, and what I’ll need when I get there. So, as you can imagine, when I walk in and the greeting consists of “hi, who are you?” and the phone page to the administrator in a questioning tone is something like “someone by the name of Matt Potratz is here to see you?”, it makes for a bit of a sour moment. Again, I’m not throwing stones, but I hope you agree that this sequence of events is lacking communication that absolutely should have existed. On the flip side, I’ve spoken at schools that had ramped up their students and staff for my arrival, hung the flyers and posters I had sent, and generated excitement throughout the school. So, when I arrived I was greeted with enthusiasm, and had a lineup of students designated to help me unload and set up my props and equipment. Those events in turn, go down on record as some of the best experiences of my career.
I’m very aware that mistakes happen and communication is sometimes simply forgotten but I think as a whole, the topic of communication lacks intentionality. I want to encourage you, and even urge you, to be intentional in your communication in every area of life. I could nearly write an entire book on this topic. Some have done so. Communicate expectations, communicate feelings, communicate needs, communicate desires, communicate satisfaction, communicate dissatisfaction, communicate goals, communicate agendas, directions, warnings, communicate re-enforcement, communicate trust, communicate belief. Make the choice to rise above assumption, and simply COMMUNICATE!