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  • Writer's pictureSean Burnley

Did you hear what I said?

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

What we have here is “a failure to communicate.” Like the movie Cool Hand Luke, it is a painful lesson when we fail to communicate. All businesses rely on clear, consistent messaging. Admittedly, I have been both on the giving and receiving side of a failure to communicate.

Why does no one communicate?

What I am finding in today’s business and even personal communications is a lack of follow up. It’s nothing for someone to send me a request or letting me know about something but when I reply, it often includes a question for that sender. And what happens? Nothing. That’s right, no answer to my questions in my reply. Why is this?

I understand. Life moves fast and it’s like trying to juggle and ride a unicycle while keeping my contacts in the know. With all the avenues a conversation can traffic through—email, txt, IM, voicemail, etc., keeping a single chain of thought intact is difficult. The technology itself is sometimes to blame for missed messages and misunderstandings.

Developing your communication skills is a never ending quest. I am always trying to learn from my mistakes in communications. Unfortunately, I am noticing when others drop the ball and I see it almost daily. A txt not answered. An email not replied to. A voicemail not returned. Both customers AND the 'professionals' are losing the art of communication. We are all busy. But we all want to feel understood and heard which can’t happen when we neglect each others messages. Hurt feelings can arise when the sender of a message doesn't get the courtesy of a response.

We communicate to friends and clients even when when we are not speaking to them. Our non-verbal “language” speaks more volume than our actual words which only accounts for about 7%. Body language accounts for about 55% of our communication. And if that’s not enough, the tone in our voice and the inflection of words counts toward the total sum of a message—about 38%. I myself struggle mightily with tone because often I get it wrong and my words are heard different than what I mean. What I’m saying isn’t always what someone else is hearing. Without some of those non-verbal clues, a short string of written words in a txt or email can be misread and misunderstood so easily.

Our brains are trying to filter out what’s important and what’s not so that we can concentrate on the big deals. In doing so, we sometimes overlook simple things that could make a big impact in our personal relations. I try to think of everyone I encounter on a daily basis as my ‘customer.’ My intent is to provide excellent ‘customer’ service through good communication every day even with my friends.

I fail at this too so don’t feel bad. I just encourage you to also adopt a ‘customer service’ mindset and strive to be clear and complete in your communications. Return that email you got, answer their question, reply to that txt, or pick up the phone and call the person who left you that voicemail. They will appreciate your actions and you won’t beat yourself up nearly as often. —Sean Burnley

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