Technology is providing an ever-expanding menu of options for communicating with coworkers. Yet in spite—or perhaps because—of those tools, many companies suffer from cultures of poor communication. Chicago Booth faculty Ayelet Fishbach, Nicholas Epley, and Heather M. Caruso discuss what causes miscommunication inside and outside the office, and what we can do to fix it.
- As the environment grows more demanding and complex, we need people to feel inspired, engaged and motivated to take on new challenges. We need them to be able to interact quickly and effectively up, down and across the organization to get things done. We need everyone on board with a shared vision of the future. And we need their unfiltered input and ideas to help us solve tough problems and find new opportunities.
- The only way to do it is by making effective communication the standard business practice. Everyone agrees effective communication is critical, so why is it such a challenge to make it a reality? The problem, in most cases, is no matter how well intended we are, we’re talking to ourselves. While we may think of interpersonal interactions as a behavioral issue, the way we communicate, as well as the way we prefer to be communicated with, are rooted in how we think. In essence, we experience the world around us as filtered through our mental preferences, and so we tend to express ourselves in the way we prefer it, not necessarily the way our listeners do.
- People have vastly different perspectives and attach different meanings to the words they use to describe those perspectives. In fact, differences in thinking preferences can be so great that they can create separate and distinct “languages” or dialects. Although we speak these dialects every day, most of us do so with no awareness of the potential problems they can create, and so we all mis-communicate every day in large or small ways.