Conscious Communication: bringing communication
up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above
in the background while you file, exercise, ride to work, etc.
Quick Communication Tip
Transparency in Communication -
More is More
You’ve heard that nature
abhors a vacuum. Things rush in to fill them. This can have a harmful
effect when it comes to communication. We tend to fill in the blanks
when we perceive missing information. Unfortunately, we don’t fill in
the blanks with happy puppies and butterflies.
In our desire to protect ourselves, we construct negative or worst-case
scenarios to fill in the voids. If we don’t get invited to a party,
we’re more likely to assume we were purposefully excluded than it being
an accidental oversight. This is a pretty interesting phenomenon when
you think about it. Without any information at all, we invent it out of
thin air. Because of this habit we have with gaps in information,
over-communicating has to be superior to under-communicating. If we
don’t leave gaps, people don’t fill them with negative assumptions.
I’ve addressed aspects of this phenomenon before both in “Kind
Ambition,” and in previous episodes of
Conscious Communication. We know that assumptions are almost
always wrong, and yet reach for them as compulsively and unconsciously
as the next potato chip.
Our discomfort with gaps in information drives us to fill those gaps as
soon as possible, and it’s this immediacy that gets us in trouble. With
consciousness and patience, we can pursue the missing information,
rather than simply filling in the blanks with assumptions.
Three Strikes of
I’ve talked about the “Three Strikes of Communication” for years, and as
a quick reminder, they are Assumptions, Projections, and Avoidance.
Rather than re-stating their downsides here, let’s address one
specifically that has a vast impact on relationships, interactions, and
entire company cultures. That’s this habit of ours to assume, fill in
the blanks with worst-case scenarios, and create distrust.
Any annoyance arising from over-communicating is greatly overshadowed by
its benefits. What we’re really talking about is “transparency.” There’s
very little that has as much positive impact on trust as transparency.
We’ve seen this time and again at every level, from interpersonal
relationships to our elected officials.
The more that’s left out, the more we think is hidden, and the more we
suspect foul play. Understanding that this negative scenario building is
our default position is what makes transparency so important. The only
remedy is putting all our cards on the table.
One motivation for holding back information is a whole other area of
dysfunction around misperceptions of “power.” Again, as I’ve already
discussed Real Power vs. Counterfeit Power in chapter 10 of “Kind
Ambition,” let’s stick directly with how it relates here. Lack of
transparency creates distrust, thus a lack of power. When we follow the
chain of events, we see that withholding information in pursuit of power
works in reverse. We don’t create power, we create distrust, which
undermines our power.
This single concept is both pervasive and lethal to organizations and
relationships. It’s very difficult to justify a lack of transparency, as
we’re basically justifying secrecy. It may not be about secrecy at all,
but when there’s a lack of transparency, our nature is to jump to that
conclusion. Even when the lack of information results from trying to
“save time,” the people who are excluded will come up with malevolent
Ironically, the most prevalent reason for a lack of transparency
(especially in organizations) is in fact about time, not secrecy.
Unfortunately, this perception of saving time by not being transparent
is very inaccurate. It may save time for one person in the short term to
have their orders blindly followed, but that savings breaks down
quickly. The old, blind obedience model doesn’t work long term, and most
businesses who’ve adopted it have discovered this.
The dynamic boils down to the difference between centralization and
intelligent “nodes.” Today’s environment requires thinking and
problem-solving on all levels. The disempowering centralization model
cuts this off at the knees. “Don’t think – just do what I say” will get
just as much obedience to the “don’t think” as to the “just do it” part.
Telling people not to think usually ends badly.
Once again, our suspicions are immediately triggered, and questions
arise. Why don’t they want me to think? Why do they want me to do this
without knowing why? What are they hiding? This is such a waste of time
and energy in itself, any time “saved” is quickly lost. From a Big
Picture, people feeling that they aren’t appreciated or listened to
starts a disintegration of morale that hurts the organization or
relationship still further. Once again, a little time spent in the
beginning, establishing transparency always pays off in the long run.
Additionally, not taking advantage of people’s thinking and
problem-solving skills wastes those resources while putting the entire
burden on that centralized “order-giver.” Lose, lose, lose, proposition.
Taking the Next Step
nothing to hide, people relax. When they can relax about their personal
safety and security, they can focus on other things, like their jobs or
their partners. The equation is really simple. Transparency engenders
Trust. Trust enables us to focus on other things. In a relationship,
that opens up time and space to focus on each other. In an organization,
it enables us to focus on our work, rather than splitting our attention.
To re-state the premise, because we fill in gaps with negative
scenarios, over-communicating is usually superior to under-communicating
as a rule. The caveat here is that there really is something to
communicate. Merely filling silence with talking is a mirage of the real
thing. That creates the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” backlash, where people stop
listening. In fact some people talk incessantly to obfuscate, rather
than clarify. Communicating is the conveyance of information, where
talking is just one of the many ways to do that. We need to keep our
focus on the vanishing point. When the desired outcome is an environment
of Trust, the path requires Transparency.
Quick Communication Tip
Talk to Me
How many times have
you felt as if you were expected to read someone’s mind? Rather than
trying harder, we usually balk and resist the prospect, and often get
angry about being put in that position. How many times have you been
told to “just do it” without engaging your enrollment or your
understanding? Rather than enthusiasm, we feel resentment, resistance,
and sometimes depression. These are examples of a lack of communication
When you’re asked, rather than told to do something, you’re more
interested in doing it. When you know why, your energy isn’t dissipated
into trying to figure that out. When you have all the pieces, you don’t
waste time trying to understand what’s missing, why it’s missing, and
how this might impact you adversely. All of these point to the simple
conclusion that transparency and open communication simplifies
interaction, keeps us engaged, and keeps us on track.
Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or
catapult you forward? Come visit the
or better yet,
contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.
- the podcast series
KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Personal Life Media -
"Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (full interview)
for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain
2nd Edition now available
visit the Blog.
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