Skip to main content

Why You Are Not a Good Communicator

One of the ideals of many people is to become a ‘great communicator’. Truth is though...very little of us truly are.

Why is that?

I believe that a ‘great communicator’ is someone who has the capacity to give another person an accurate picture of what is happening in his or hers emotional and psychological life – and in particular, can describe the very darkest, trickiest and most awkward sides in such a way that others can understand, and even sympathize with them.

Now I realize that sounds very daunting, so perhaps it’s no surprise that many of us or not such great communicators because we simply do not wish to expose ourselves that way.

But make no mistake: Where we don’t ‘communicate’ a message, we still manage to get our points across, but just in toxic forms. As the expression goes, ‘if we can’t talk it out, we act it out’

So when someone asked me recently why we are not all great communicators, I shared these three important reasons:  

1.    No good role models

We learn to speak by hearing others speak. And in particular, we learn to speak about tricky topics because we hear others discussing them elegantly and kindly.
But most of us did not grow up around ‘good communicators’.  I sure know I didn’t...My parents loved me deeply, but they did not pull off the trick of describing difficulties within in timely, sane and reassuring way.

And then there is the even more dangerous possibility. What if the role model was a parent who loved us fiercely, but wanted us to be a certain way. They could not be disappointed. It was our job to help keep them intact.
This way we learnt that we could easily hurt someone by communicating a part of your personality which doesn’t fit the preconceived ideas. A precedent was set...

2.    Can you be ‘bad’ and ‘good’?

In the ideal upbringing, those who loved us would be able to do so without demanding that everything about us is good. They could tolerate that we could – sometimes, for a while – be selfish, angry, lazy, close minded or mean – and yet still remain accepted.

But mostly we come from backgrounds which fall far short of this ideal.

We feel that if we ever lose our temper, we will be revealed as aggressive. Or if we confess to having some lazy sides, we will be condemned as layabouts. Or if we reveal our worries about a task at work, we’ll set off a panic about our lack of skill.  

Our tendency to assume that others will judge us is the central obstacle to good communication. Shame robs us of the capacity to put our case sensibly and plausibly. It makes us long to hide our failings; we feel the only way to protect ourselves and retain dignity is to go silent.

3.    I can’t do it

I guess it’s no surprise that we sometimes think that communication will never work out. Looking back at my own life I have failed so often in the past. My history is full of failed attempts where I tried to tell a colleague, a friend or a partner something and it hasn’t worked.

So, what do we do? We give up.

But, to inject hope into the situation, I learned that this fear is based on a false assumption: The idea that we can’t learn how to better communicate about what is going on inside us.

The fact that it didn’t work out in the past isn’t decisive. I just needed to train myself to accept the darkness, to reduce fear, to present myself calmly and to not give way to self-loathing…

Only that way we can become that great communicator after all.


Popular posts from this blog

Emotions at work? Yes please!

  "I was biting my tongue the whole time"  "Gosh, he makes my blood boil"  "I wish she would just get off my back"  “There is a knot in my stomach”   These are all common idioms which are related to where emotions can settle in our body. We especially notice it during those tricky conversations.  But weirdly enough, even though our body is telling us exactly what is going on, we hardly listen to it.  A missed opportunity because they are crucial signals that remind you to use your communication skills and our emotional intelligence.  What to do?    -        *  Do you notice tension in your body? Do you feel your heart beat faster? You may find it an exciting conversation. Ask yourself: What do I find exciting or difficult? -        *  State what you see or feel. Such as: "I notice my heart is beating fast and there is a knot in my stomach. I feel uncomfortable.”   -       *   Examine your own judgment of emotions. What do you th

How we help Leaders Learn more Deeply

Much research has been done into effective ways of learning. But we can cautiously say that learning is too complex an activity for conclusive theories. Which is not to say that we are in the dark. An educational thinker who has stood the test of time is David Kolb. In the 1970s and 1980s, this learning psychologist developed an influential and useful concept about learning that can also be found in all of our InterACT WA Communication & Leadership training courses. What is it?  Kolb divided the learning process into four phases. He saw them as cyclical, so he put them in a circle. Whoever wants to learn something, according to Kolb, must go through every phase of the circle. And not once, no, often you have to go through the circle a few times to get to what really matters: to learn more deeply. Learning more deeply means: you can remember what you have learned and apply it in practice. You don't have to be an educationalist to see that as a wonderful outcome of learni

5 reasons role play fails

Role playing is one of the most effective learning methods. Especially when you choose to work with a professional actor. Surprisingly it’s also one of the most misused techniques.  So what goes wrong? Well, pay attention and learn which 5 failures make role play fail miserably: 1. Unsafe practice   environment Most people are not dying of enthusiasm to do a role play simulation. That is why its extremely important to invest time and effort in creating a safe practice environment. Never ever push people intro a role play scenario if they really don't want to. They wont learn a thing and will only be more reluctant to do so in the future. 2. No alignment between learning goals and role play.  The role play has to be completely dedicated to the learning goal of the participant. Unfortunately sometimes people are eager to change the role play into an interesting theatrical scene. Perhaps fun to look at, but not very helpful to the participant. No role play s