Why You Can’t Rely on Telepathy

Something that amuses me is how people think that they communicate well with their staff, when in reality they are the epitome of ambiguity. You can’t expect your people to know what you left unsaid, especially any chatter going on in your head.

People struggle with communication issues constantly. Even when you do it well, sometimes you need to repeat it, say it differently, or ask them to repeat it back in their words so that you know that you’re on the same page.

It isn’t that the entire world suffers from ADHD (even though sometimes it might seem that way); the basic ways that we read, write, speak and listen have changed.

For example, like many people, you probably spend a lot of time in front of screens – computer, tablet, smart phone – as you’re doing right now. People don’t read on screen; they scan. And simply put, you don’t get the same comprehension from scanning.

And when you’re scanning, myriad other distractions enter the picture: interruptions from co-workers, phone calls, texts, instant messages. No wonder concentration suffers!

And that brings us back to the main point, which is to be critically mindful of how people receive your message – especially in this interference-laden world. Whether you’re talking or typing – even if you think you couldn’t be clearer – don’t deduce that people heard you the way that you intended and expected.

When you presume that people know what’s on your mind, you’re basically “managing by telepathy”.

This is rarely intentional. After all, you don’t sit in your office and think about how you can avoid communicating effectively. But you can get swept up in the busy-ness of your day and simply think that you said something, when it never left your mind.

Executives who complain about communication challenges are often guilty of weak communication skills themselves. When I drill down about exactly how they communicate, it doesn’t take too long before discovering that they “forget” to mention specific directives or details.

One way to keep your thoughts organized is to keep running lists for the various individuals or groups that you address on a regular basis. As an example, you can keep a running list for staff meetings, for key managers, or for specific projects. Then when you meet with them, you’re not relying on memory or leaving a string of emails after the fact.

It doesn’t matter which method you use to manage these lists; what is important is to use something that works for you. You can use a notebook, the tasks function in Outlook, or any number of software packages or apps, such as Evernote.

I know this may seem glaringly obvious, but you know that the little things make a big difference when it comes to communication.

I recommend that you not only try keeping person-specific running lists, but to observe how your communication improves as a result. At a minimum, your people will be relieved from trying to read your mind (and you’ll be relieved to not rely on your memory).

After all, much as you might want to, you can’t rely on communicating telepathically!

© 2016 Lisa M. Aldisert