“What we’ve got here is . . . failure to communicate.” Remember that line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” (1967)? It probably ranks up there as one of the most quoted movie lines ever, alongside others like Cling Eastwood’s famous “Dirty Harry” scene , “go ahead, make my day”, or Rhett Butler’s memorable “frankly Scarlett I don’t give a . . .”. The difference is that “failure to communicate” is much more than a line from a movie scene; it is something we deal with every day.
Isn’t it amazing that in today’s world with all the advanced electronic communication tools – email, text messaging, cell phones, internet, radio and television, etc. – we still suffer from “failure to communicate”. Could it be that we have become so dependent on the instantaneous flow of information that we have left out some of the other important elements in communication such as basic etiquette and common courtesy?
Here are a few tips: (1) Listen! Listen (or read) not only with your ears (or eyes) but with all your senses. That is, pay attention to the person not just the words. (2) Reflect. Think about what you hear before you react. Try to understand even if you don’t agree. (3) Respond. Emails and voice mails are easy to ignore, but common decency tells us we should at least acknowledge them. Besides, failure to respond is “failure to communicate”. (4) Ask questions. In coaching we are taught that “questions attract, statements repel”. Asking questions lubricates the lines of communication by showing respect to the other party in addition to gaining clarity about what is being communicated. (5) Communication works both ways. Before blaming others for failure to communicate first consider how you could have been a better communicator yourself. And (6) follow the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would have them treat you.
“What we’ve got here [in our society] is . . . a failure to communicate,” and I too am as much an offender as a victim. The solution, though, is simple. All that’s needed is the addition of a little basic etiquette and common courtesy. Try it and see what happens.