Why Communication Fails

“They just don’t get it!”

“How many times have we told them this?”

“Why don’t they understand?”

These are common phrases in the world of business, whether applied to employee communication, marketing communication or customer communication. But there is something fundamentally wrong with each of these statements which contributes immensely to our failed communication efforts.

What’s wrong? Each of these statements takes a blaming approach suggesting that it is the audience’s responsibility to “get it.” But, guess what? When we attempt to communicate with an audience and they don’t get it, we are the ones who should be taking the blame.

As someone who has worked in communication roles for a number of years and with a number of audiences (internal and external) I have learned to recognize the importance of taking responsibility for conveying the message(s) appropriately, based on the objective and the audience, and working hard to “get it right.”

In other words, it’s not “their fault” if they don’t understand–it’s *my* fault that I haven’t conveyed the information in a manner that will resonate with the particular audience I’m attempting to impact/influence. It doesn’t matter if my audience is my husband, a group of students in a class I teach, employees I manage, the media, my customers or a group of people I’d like to be my customers.

It is always about the audience and their preferred learning/listening style, inherent barriers to whatever it is I may be wishing to convey, level of interest, level of existing knowledge, potential objections, etc. The more I can understand my audience the more likely I’ll be able to clearly convey what it is I’d like to convey–often using a variety of tools/channels over some period of time. And, importantly, evaluating, measuring and monitoring results so I can learn how to do a better job the next time.

The shift from blaming them to taking responsibility for our own failed communications can be a difficult one, especially for professional communicators. But it is pure folly to refuse to accept responsibility. After all, we can’t control what our audiences do, we can only control what we do. Consequently, whatever audience I’m communicating with, I choose to take the responsibility for getting my point across. Try it. I think you’ll be surprised at how much more effective your communication becomes.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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