Open Communication

Open communication is a myth! I hear people often say things like: “Let´s have an open conversation” or “let us just talk openly about it”. The intentions are the very best behind these words, but the reality is different. Open communication is not possible for at least two reasons.

The first one is that we process things in our minds much quicker than we would ever be able to articulate. So we end up with a discrepancy between what we think and what we say. Due to that discrepancy, we can never openly and fully communicate what we are thinking or feeling at any point in time – let alone all the history, assumptions, beliefs that we have as context for the communication that we are in.

The second reason will ring true with anyone working in a bigger organization. It is the simple fact that we do not only communicate “person-to-person”, but we communicate “role-to-role”. So it is not just Jimmy and Mary who talk with each other, but it is the VP of Service talking to the VP of Sales. So whenever we have a conversation, the context, restrictions and limitations of the role we are in and the role that our counterpart is in, play a huge role in framing the way that we communicate. By the way, this is no different for roles that you might play within your family or other social circles.

People tend to overestimate the power of communication! You cannot just put four people in a room with the best of intentions and say: “Hey, let´s have a really open communication” and then be disappointed at the end of the conversation if nothing productive came out of it. There is other stuff happening here. Bottom line: say goodbye to the naive notion of open communication! Instead be aware of the limitations that a specific communication poses and start proactively addressing those limitations!

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Image(s): iStock/76435801 fabio lamanna