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March 1, 2016

How to Prevent 3 Communication Pitfalls!

Our level of success in life is in direct relationship to how successfully we communicate. Communication can often be difficult and sometimes very frustrating. When we don’t say anything, an assumption is made – and in most cases, it’s negative. If we do say something, it may be perceived incorrectly. If that is not enough, there are all the “shoulds” from others – their comparison expectations on how we should do something, or be something or live our life a certain way. In other words, their way!

Because of assumptions, perceptions and comparison expectations we often make commitments to either do things we don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Just writing this makes me feel exhausted! Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry about communicating? But that is not reality.

Our success in life depends on our ability to communicate. Therefore, it is necessary to learn how to communicate and overcome these pitfalls regardless of how frustrating or difficult they may be. I have found from years of coaching dental teams nationwide that the best way to get good at something is to remove or overcome the obstacles.

Let’s start with assumptions. This one is a biggy! We make assumptions every minute of every day. Something happens and we instantly assign meaning to it. It may be correct or it may be incorrect. We won’t know unless we take the next step. That step is asking. Sounds easy but it’s not. We often fear that if we ask, we may open ourselves up to an emotional reaction. We can’t let fear stop us from asking. We don’t know what someone meant by their actions or words or the way they said something. Sometimes even what they say or the words they use can mean something different than what we believe them to mean. Ask with care, concern and respect. Continue to respectfully ask questions until you understand the other person’s true intent. If you are still thinking “I think they meant…”, you are assuming and it is important ask more questions to achieve a clear understanding.

Perceptions are just as dangerous as assumptions. Both the person speaking and the person listening play a role in perceptions. I often hear team members say, “I didn’t mean it that way! They just took it wrong! So it’s not my fault!” If you are always being misunderstood, it is important to reflect on how you are communicating. It is not just what you say that counts in communication. It is also how the message is being perceived. The listener often bases their perception on their past experiences they had with you as well as your words, body language and tone of voice. They often assign meaning based on what it would mean if they said or did that same thing, which in many cases does not accurately reflect the other person’s intent. Inaccurate perceptions also happen when we don’t hear the entire story or all the reasons or steps. It is important to take the time to clearly explain your intent to avoid false perceptions.

Comparison Expectations create negative expectations! They are the “shoulds” that guilt us into doing things we aren’t comfortable doing or feeling terrible about ourselves when we don’t. We have all heard and even said, “You should….!” Comparison Expectations happen when we compare ourselves to others…or when others compare us to them. The comparison is what creates the expectations for who, what, when where, why and how we should do something based on what others do. Comparing is toxic; someone always loses. We may even believe that others are wrong when they don’t do something our way. Comparison expectations can make us feel or do something out of guilt. Guilt creates shame and shame inhibits communication because if we feel shameful about something, we are less likely to communicate openly and honestly. Stop the comparison noise! Quit allowing the “shoulds” from yourself and others to dictate your actions AND quit expecting others to do things your way. Instead together as a team create clear standards and support them!

(If you would like to receive the white pages for Team Communication Guidelines please email me at and write Team Communication Guidelines in the subject line.)

Our success in life will depend greatly on how well we communicate in our personal and professional lives. Communicate clearly, ask questions to avoid false assumptions and perceptions and for goodness sake…stop “shouldng” on each other!