Clarity Begins with Our Mighty Minds
Did you know our brains communicate information at the rate of some four billion neuron impulses per second? All that information feeds through our senses, and yet we’re only consciously aware of about 2,000. That’s only 0.00005%.
If you stop to think about it, you’ll begin to notice things you normally wouldn’t be aware of. The feel of air moving in and out of your nose, throat, and lungs. The touch of clothes on your skin. The thrum of your pulse. The number of things in your field of vision- most of which you probably weren’t actively looking at. Before I pointed these things out, you probably didn’t even notice them.
The good news is that our brains have developed highly sophisticated ways of sifting out the less important information and pushing the important stuff to the top of our notice. This keeps us from getting overwhelmed with the vast ocean of data being registered in our minds every minute of every day.
Assumptions Create Gaps
What isn’t so great is the fact that this can allow us to make some wrong assumptions as our brains sort and filter the information. Some gets deleted, some distorted, and some generalized. Lots of times, those processes serve us well, but sometimes the mind connects dots it shouldn’t. Sometimes we don’t even realize that’s happened.
You’ve probably had an experience like this: you have a conversation with a coworker. You think you’ve communicated your ideas clearly. You think you understand his point-of-view, too. Only later do you realize what you thought your coworker was asking you to do isn’t actually what he meant. You’ve made an assumption based on some vague information, and now you have to go back and fix the work.
Our assumptions can create gaps in communication. Sometimes we realize we need more information and can ask for it right away. But other times we don’t realize it until a problem arises.
Examples of vague statements can be things like, “Make sure everyone appreciates our efforts,” or “Increase morale in the team.” What do you think those statements mean? What action are they asking for specifically? There’s a lot of room for interpretation!
The best way to avoid problems arising from vague statements is to improve your communication skills. Be aware of the pitfalls of miscommunication- loss of time, productivity, and frustration among your team members, for instance. Learn to recognize vague statements and ask clarifying questions. “What do you mean when you say this…?” “How would you like me to accomplish this task?” “What kind of results are you looking to achieve?”
Asking these kinds of probing questions will help your team focus on the important tasks at hand and help filter out harmful assumptions. You’ll build strong communication between yourself and your coworkers. All of these are key to successful leadership.
Did you know that 80% of people don’t ask questions when someone’s not clear? Let’s change that number…ask more questions and encourage others to do the same. In then end, we all win!
Business Psychologist/Happiness Expert