The illusion that a conversation has taken place

What did Bernard Shaw say? “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”


What if your natural way of broaching conversations is frustrating your business partner? Is there a director at your board table who you can’t seem to follow? Do you feel your CEO is too focussed on facts and ignores the morale and culture of the staff?

One cause of these difficulties might be a difference in your communication styles.

Every person has their own way of thinking, questioning and approaching a challenge. For a business relationship to work effectively it is important to understand your own way of thinking and working, plus your business partner’s way of thinking and working. Exploring the diversity of your communication styles together will greatly improve your ability to talk and understand each other, to work through tricky conversations and avoid them turning into disputes, potentially causing the breakdown of your business. 

I was reminded of this  when I again had the pleasure of attending the precognitive communication programme, DOTS™ presented by the effervescent Amy Scott. (For a taste of Amy’s magic watch her TedTalk).

I highly recommend that groups attend programmes like DOTS™ to help people gain self-awareness but to also appreciate and respect each other's diversity. However, such programmes are often treated as fluffy, one-off team building exercises. You gain true value from them when you intentionally build what you have learnt into a system that suits your business relationships.  

For example, each person in your group could write a one-pager identifying their communication style (in this context, what colour DOT they are) and how they like to receive information and feedback. Then you could meet as a group to share and explain your page, finally gathering all pages into a ‘handbook’ for future reference.  The preferred communication styles could be integrated into how your meetings are run and how messages are disseminated amongst your group. The ‘handbook’ and how it is used in your business could be revisited as part of your regular strategic review. Some groups may prefer an outside facilitator to support this process, particularly if there is a history of breakdowns in communication or there are challenging conversations to be had.

The number of businesses ceasing operation in New Zealand increased from 51, 948 in 2016 to 59,070 in 2017 (source Total Business Births & Deaths in NZ). To avoid being one of those statistics, businesses need to have robust relationships founded on mutual respect and good processes to ensure communication has been accomplished. 

Don’t give Bernie a headache, make sure your communication has taken place by the message being sent and received in a way that person you are communicating with really understands.