We humans make sense of our world by classifying our experiences, conversations and other people. Our classifications are binary in nature; they are an either/or category. The most common is good or bad. Other common classifications are them and us, like me or not like me, happy or sad. We make our classifying decisions based on the emotion we experience - our feelings - at that moment.
Confusing or mixing messages occurs when the receiver of the message thought that the message was going one way ("good") but it turns out that it was going down the other way ("bad") or vice versa. Emotions are conflicted.
By allowing your emotional detectors to guide you, you'll become more aware of any mixing of your own messages, and can also learn by observing others. Here are some common examples:
When we mix our messages, we are confusing the emotional response - the feelings - we trigger in the receiver. In the first part of our message we are leading the person down the path of either good or bad, for example, and then we confuse the message - the person's emotional detectors - by diverting them down the other path.
Given our hardwired instinct for loss aversion, when we mix our messages, the negative one dominates. The negative emotion becomes the memory of the event.
The remedy to avoid mixing messages is simple - stick to one emotion associated with each event. When there are two objectives to cover, it becomes necessary to separate the events, so that the emotions attached to each don't mix.
Using the examples above:
Our guide is the receiver's emotional detector. If our message is intended to be "positive", then make that the message and don't confuse the issue by mixing with a "negative" one. Leaders should avoid trying to squeeze too much into any one interaction, and thereby will achieve greater clarity in their communications with staff.
We have all encountered locked doors in our lives. And to get through doors, keys are required. The keys below unlock more than a literal door. They are key ways to ask better questions - and these keys unlock more than a room, they unlock engagement, conversation, understanding, trust, problem solving and more.
When it comes to effective communication, who is really the judge? All too often managers think they are the best judge of how clear they are. Their message is completely obvious to them so why would it not be with any intended receiver? This thinking negatively impacts more organisations than you would imagine. Managers are often astonished when employees complain about a lack of or unclear communication. “But we talk to them all the time,” they say, and they are right but so are their employees. Managers may talk, but employees don’t hear.
Poor performance, turnover, conflict and disengagement. This reads like a checklist of most leaders’ worst fears. While there is no single silver bullet answer to solve all four of these problems, there is one major component common to all. Dissect these areas of poor performance and you will most likely find unclear or mismatched expectations.
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