There it is again. I’m driving on the Southern California highways at a pretty good clip, and I find myself aggravated by the car I’m approaching, who has a turn signal on. I’m trying to figure out if this car is actually expressing a lane change, or forgotten that this blinker is on. I move over an extra lane, just in case, as I look to arrive safely at my destination without bumping into any new people (aka accident).
Fast forward. I’m in my neighborhood at a four-way stop. I’m headed left, and I know it because that’s the direction of my office. Across the intersection is another car, apparently headed right. I know this in hindsight because as I turn left, he turns right. We exchange pleasantries, which included his horn and my facial expression of surprise and dismay as we navigate our respective turns which happened more simultaneously than those stop signs would indicate.
Two quick stories. One common theme. What is the point of that lever on the left hand side of the wheel? Oh, right, it’s a communication device! How often do you use that turn signal? How reliably are you telling the other drivers in your vicinity about the path you are about to take?
How often are you in a meeting discussing something, again, and come to a decision? Doesn’t that feel good, to finally come to some conclusion? You leave the meeting, return to your flow, and put the decision into action. Just like my left turn. Problem is, I didn’t signal. You’ve know the decision was coming for months, and keeping it all under wraps until rollout, now you are “enjoying” the pleasantries of those who are impacted, but had no idea it was coming. Maybe the morale takes a dip, maybe you have significant push back, or perhaps you hear more and more gossip about what is “really going on”. These are all indicators that your communication wasn’t as mindful as you hoped, or thought.
Mindful communication starts when you recognize your filters. We all have them. In a car we call them blind spots, or rear view mirrors, or turn signals – tools that we mindfully use to choose our communications with other vehicles. In working with others, I see filters of people, process, or performance. When I’m interacting with a performance driven person, I choose outcome focused points to accentuate. My process driven interactions involve discussion about the path to drive again and again. Those who are people driven are looking for the discussion about inclusion of others. You see how mindful communication is really listening first?
Looking at the car across the intersection gives me more information to use in my communication. Considering my employees not in the room gives me another lens through which to craft my message. Now I’m thinking about what direction that car is going, what direction my decision is taking us as an organization, and turning on my signal so my intentions are clear. Not only have I clarified my tone and expression, I’ve avoided the unpleasantries that ensue when I leave others to guess my thoughts. And, I’m listening for the lens of others all the time, so when I do speak, I’m talking in a language they can hear.
Consider how you communicate the decisions being made today. Who will you tell? What level of information will you share? How many questions will you address? How will you know that enough information has been disseminated to bring everyone together on this direction?