Communication that cuts through

Communication in the workplace is muddied by a lack of clarity. Come with me for a moment and follow this simple instruction. Notice what comes to mind for you.

Don’t think of a pink elephant!

What happened? Your internal dialogue might be ‘Don’t think of a pink elephant? I can see a pink elephant. Oops she said no pink elephants… Okay now I am thinking of a pink giraffe.’

The unconscious mind is unable to process negatives (such as words like ‘don’t’) so at best it’s a two-step process. First you thought of what I didn’t want you to think of, and then you needed to find an alternative. Messy right?

If instead I stated what I did want and asked you to ‘Think of a blue elephant’, you could do that instantaneously.To cut through, your communication must be clear.

There’s another reason why stating what you want in your instructions increases the influence of your communication. What we focus on determines what we get. So while we focus our attention on what we don’t want, that’s what we are unconsciously filtering.

For example, imagine a child in a tennis lesson. He’s just hit the ball into the net and the coach gives him another chance, saying ‘this time don’t hit the net’. What’s the child thinking of as he serves the ball? ‘Don’t hit the net. Don’t hit the net…’ His attention is directed at the net, and guess where he hits the ball?

When the coach says ‘This time sail the ball up and over the net’  the child’s internal dialogue shifts, and so does his focus and his result.

What well-meaning advice have you offered in the past day that required double processing and misdirected attention?

  • ‘When you get into this meeting, don’t think about the risk of loosing the bid’ might become ‘When you get into this meeting, focus on building relationships.’
  • Don’t be so accommodating in your approach to your team’ might become ‘Be firm in your approach to your team’.
  • And if you have young children, ‘Don’t touch that!’ could be ‘Just look with your eyes’  and ‘Don’t run beside the swimming pool’  might become ‘Walk carefully’.

Stating what you do want is one strategy to developing Cut Through Communication. The easiest way to start is in your written communication. Build your awareness by reviewing a few of your recent emails. Then take action.

Share your experiences and ideas on clear communication below.

Have an Extraordinary day