One issue that comes up for many of my clients is frustration with the quality of the communication they have with peers, business partners, direct reports, and (if they have them) bosses. They express frustration that they are being ignored, the other party does not get it, or there is initial alignment but afterwards they find they did not have true understanding with the other party.
With frustration there can be a surprising amount of inertia and the situation just worsens. Blowups also worsen the situation but many times clients will just stew on it.
I am recalling one client who shared with me that he had not had a meaningful conversation with a business partner for over a year because a written communication summarizing a conversation between the two about a deal did not accurately capture my clients thoughts. He was offended so stewed on it for a year. His response (or lack thereof) to that communication put the deal in limbo and surely cost even more in terms of the synergy lost between the two.
Another client complained to me that he felt he was being taken advantage of by a strategic business development partner. I asked him how long he had felt that way. His answer? Three years. I then asked when was the last time he had brought it up. His answer? Never. Never? In three years?! That is a long time to tolerate something that so obviously aggravated him.
Here are three things you can do right now to improve any communications that are just making you stew.
First, decide what you want. Don’t tip toe around it. Get clear about what you want or need. Need better job quality from an employee? Want recognition for a job well done? Want timely reporting on projects? Get clear on what you want.
Second, you have got to ask for what you want. Don’t expect people to read your mind. Don’t expect people to think about your needs. People do not read minds. People are likely too wrapped up in their own concerns to remember yours. Verbalize it.
Third, look for understanding and next steps. “What else do you need to know?” “What areas about what I have said are unclear to you?” “When will I hear back from you?” “What next steps will you take and how will you keep me advised?”
Life is too short and business too fast to sit and stew on incomplete conversations. They are expensive and incur both financial and emotional costs. Get out there and clarify. Did I make myself clear?