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Communication - A Lost Art

Updated on November 10, 2008
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Where Did it Go?

Communication. What happened to it? What happened to the skill of communication in the workforce, in the family, in relationships, in the world? It disappeared. It ran to the highlands. It left us to flounder on our own.

The question is if we can get it back and how?

The Path to Communication Success

Webster defines communication as

a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior

The first and most important part of communication is the phrase "exchanged". It has to actually reach the other person before you can be successful at communication. And it has to be done successfully. Just because you told your spouse to take out the garbage does not mean that they received that message. Just saying "Would you?" is not communicating that the garbage needs to be taken out.

So many people lose sight of this. I've worked with so many people who just assume that you know what happened in a meeting that you did not attend, or that you know exactly why they filed the report where they did. Don't you know? No, we don't. You need to communicate. You need to exchange information and knowledge.

Examples Everywhere

Examples are literally everywhere.

The workplace is one of the hottest spots for communication issues.

  • Does your manager always debrief with the necessary parties after an important meeting?
  • Are you invited to the meetings that you are a major player in?
  • Do messages get delivered to the right people always?
  • When someone is describing an issue that they want you to help with, do they begin to go off on other topics that have no bearing what so ever on the present discussion?
  • Does a co-worker tell you one thing and then proceed to tell an entirely different thing to others - resulting in total confusion and delay in deadlines?
  • Does you boss decide on one course of action in a meeting you attend and then after talking to other parties change that course, but somehow forget to tell you - the one in charge of it?
  • Do your co-workers use incorrect terms and/or interchange terms continually and get you confused on what you are really discussing?
  • Do your co-workers not pass on vital information because they assume you know, too?
  • Do your co-workers let you politely know that they will be out all next week?

These are just a few examples of what can go on in the workplace due to a lack of communication. I've been burned so many times as information has not been passed on timely or at all to me. In many cases the culprit was my direct boss. This is becoming a HUGE issue in corporate America. It's an issue that seems to be given just enough attention via a few required "classes" employees have to attend so that employers can say that they honestly are trying to bring communication to the forefront of the company. NOT!

So many of the problems at work come from management themselves and the fact that they refuse to set an example of good communication. I had a vice-president recently leave a meeting with me about my new duties. I had it all written down, but the word that got back to me that he was telling others was WAY different. He was thinking of other things and implied to others that I was going to be doing those. He never thought to talk to me about.

Intensive communication training needs to be applied and required at all companies that truely want to change and advance in this world with quality products and services. I know from my personal experience in Corporate America that too much time is wasted re-doing work or hunting information that could have been saved if communication was where it should be. There is so much unnecessary time wasted, useless meetings, and needless bad reviews happening because of this problem. I just wasted 2 hours this past week because a co-worker was wanting me to help solve a problem. It took me almost the entire time to understand that the initial question had nothing to do with the real issue at hand which was solved in 30 seconds. What a waste of valuable time and money for the company!

Family Communication (or Not)

Another place where mis-communication abounds is within families. For right now I will not include spousal communication. That is a section all by itself.

  • Grandmother calls daughter no. 1 and tells her what time Thanksgiving will be. Assumes that this very busy working mother of 5 will have the time to call all of her other siblings and the other family members.
  • Wedding invitation sent to mother's house - assumes she will pass the information on to her sons.
  • Family get together this Saturday - didn't you hear me mention at the last one 6 months ago?
  • Mother-in-law called husband and told him that a close relative was dying - Why didn't you know? (OK, this slips into the spousal section. I'm sorry. Might as well go there now.)

The Marriage

This one could take a novel to write about so I'll try to limit it.

Huge communication problems abound in a marriage and a very unique couple can say that they are improving in their communication skills.

  • Husband "forgot" to tell you that his mother was coming for a visit.
  • Can't you read my mind that I was thinking of having our friends over tonight?
  • I mentioned that I might buy that $7000 snow mobile just last winter.
  • Next time you don't like a dish, please tell me so I don't make it again.
  • The crackers were not for your snack but for the party tonight.
  • What party? You never mentioned any party? 3 months ago they "mentioned" it?
  • You agreed to WHAT?????

I'll stop there before divorce attorneys begin to contact me.

As you can see communication problems abound everywhere. What can we do about them?

The first thing is to become a better communicator yourself. If you want the world around you improve to a certain level, you need to be on the road yourself so that you can help them along.

Next, begin teaching others around the art by example, classes, mentoring, and putting it in front of them constantly.

If it is not in front of us, challenging us to grow, we won't. Make improving communication a priority in your job and your personal life. A lot of headaches could be avoided.


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    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Only if you promise not to ask my husband. I would be so afraid of what he would mis-communicate to you.....

    • profile image

      Eddie Perkins 9 years ago

      Very good job of communicating your message.  I agree 100% although I have had my moments of miss communication. Just ask my wife. No, on second thought, don't ask her.

      Thank you very much for this good information. ~ eddie

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      So right, pgrundy. Just this morning had a miscommunication with someone I work with. Wasn't the worst thing, but it is frustrating. I had feeling like I've failed because of it.

      We've got to learn to converse again.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image

      pgrundy 9 years ago

      I can affirm that copywriting and freelancing can be difficult without clear communication with and from clients. So many people hire a writer but don't really know what they want so they can't communicate what they want! I've learned to kind of avoid those kind of clients--I'm getting a better sense for when I've gotten into a situation like that, and for which clients are presenting projects that are going to be a communication nightmare. That would make a good hub actually--what are some good clarifying questions for those clients!

      Great hub! The last several elelctions in the US have show a real distaste for respectful communication too--people just put each other down and root for 'their team' and it's really not fun. It would be great if we could all learn to have conversations again instead of shouting matches.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 9 years ago from Texas

      No truer words were ever spoken! What a tremendous waste of time miscommunication is! Thanks for a great article! :) Suzanne

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you. I just can't understand why they won't even try to become better at it. The waste of it all drives me nuts.

      Thanks for stopping by and empathizing.

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      JenArt 9 years ago

      As a freelancer, let me tell you how much you've hit the nail on the head! I am lucky to currently be working with two clients who are great at communicating, but that hasn't always been the case. It makes it so much more difficult when you are trying to work with someone who places little emphasis on clear, concise, and open communication!!!!