Communication Conflicts

Assumptions, Emotions, Perceptions, Conditions, and Facts color our communication with ourselves and others. We must learn to manage them.

A wise man once said that the hardest thing about communication is the illusion that it has occurred. I have been involved in hundreds of medical, military, and public safety operations, and the after-action reviews of each one cite communication as a problem. Whether in business, relationships, or anywhere else, avalanches of academic papers and mountains of media articles bemoan our inability to effectively talk to each other, and propose ways of fixing it.

Several factors are present in every communication event, including assumptions, emotions, perceptions, conditions, and facts. They change the communication, often without the participants realizing it.

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Getting People to Answer

What do you do when people in the workplace ignore you, even though you need them for work? How can you use influence when you don’t have raw power, to get answers?

A Navy Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) came into my office recently. “Sir, I have emailed Lt. Col X several times and she hasn’t answered yet. All I get is radio silence. Could you help?” This young officer was voicing a concern that I hear frequently; someone that they are trying to work with, or get something from, wasn’t answering. Or at least they weren’t answering fast enough to suit us at higher headquarters. When faced with such a problem, many junior staffers go to the Boss, hoping that he or she will contact the person and get immediate results. Sometimes if the issue is urgent that is the right approach. Sometimes even going directly to the boss of Lt. Col X is the best approach. Often, however, it is better for the junior staffer to get the information themselves, and there are many ways to do that. I have been faced with similar problems in the past and have learned the hard way that, unless the issue is urgent, I need to exhaust my options for resolving problems, such as radio silence from someone I am supposed to work with, before going further up the chain.

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Learning Many Ways to Communicate

How many of you can read Morse Code? Read on!

(- …. . .. — .–. — .-. – .- -. -.-. . — ..-. .-.. . .- .-. -. .. -. –. — .- -. -.– .– .- -.– … – — -.-. — — — ..- -. .. -.-. .- – .)

In the popular movie Star Wars, the protocol droid C3PO boasts that he is programmed with over six million forms of communication. His skills come in handy for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and the other characters trying to save the galaxy from the evil Empire. From Ewoks to Jabba the Hut, C3PO plays a major role in the final outcome.

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