Toxic Communication Culture + 3 things to help you avoid it, forever
Just as I am talking (or writing) to you now, we are constantly communicating every day.
Of course, some people more than others!
But the importance of communication, in business as in life - be it a friendly catch-up over coffee, or an important meeting with a big client – cannot be overlooked!
Yes, I know this seems like common sense, but that is probably why it isn’t really looked at when it comes to training, it is just assumed!
But as the age-old cliché goes, "to assume' makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'", or in this case your business and your clients (only that isn’t quite as catchy!).
I once heard a story of a man who spent 15 hours on hold to Qantas airlines, a time 20 minutes longer than his Adelaide to New York flight that he had originally taken issue with!
Now, obviously this is an extreme example of poor service, but the fact that not only the flight, but also the subsequent complaints procedure, was so convoluted acts as the perfect demonstration of why your whole team should look at communication.
And here’s the thing…
The way in which you communicate has a direct impact on how we feel. So that means how you feel, your team and, of course your clients.
And then it goes on, because this becomes ingrained because we respond to that feeling and then over time, we create a culture of how people deal with people, and how we feel working in, for and with your business.
So that culture in your business, as defined by the communication styles and levels, will show up in the external treatment of clients, and therefore how they feel (and whether they buy or stay when they do).
So, for your metaphorical flight to go smoothly, you need this culture to be a good one, plane and simple (yeah, okay that was bad!).
Let me give you an example of the kind of communication that creates the problem culture:
Did you ever have a teacher back in school who was almost too smart?
For me it was chemistry.
I’m not talking about someone who was just very knowledgeable, I mean the type who just expected you to know stuff and mad you feel stupid if you didn’t?
I’m sure it was super simple for him but how was I supposed to know my acids from my alkalis at 13?!?!
Anyway, if like me, you were unfortunate enough to have one of these teachers, Mr. or Mrs. Condescending (and believe me, I’m very sorry if you did!), then you will know how small it made you feel to be dismissed by this expert.
And, this is what will happen in your business if you get the communication culture wrong.
You will turn your client base into that 13-year-old kid in chemistry class (metaphorically speaking again!).
An apparent lack of care, or even somewhat bullying approach, both within your team, or when interacting with customers and clients, is a sure-fire way to get no response.
But here’s the thing…
Probably you didn’t mean it…
And neither did my chemistry teacher!
He probably never even knew he had that effect but was responding to how he felt. It is like a spiral of communication failings, creating a vicious circle.
But the problem is when the culture of communication is to not explain, not be open, honest, and supportive. Then we are only left with blame.
Then we get defensive and lash out with passive aggressive communication. And cultures!
This is the vicious circle I mentioned because people fear consequences internally and become defensive and then, externally, this oozes out.
One of my LinkedIn connections informed me recently that this issue is currently causing major issues in the Court system.
Courts will cancel hearings with as little as 48 hours’ notice (even less in some cases!) due to lack of judges or various other reasons.
This is in spite of the fact that they know Counsel's fees are collected seven days prior to a hearing (apparently).
When they are met with rightful opposition, they come back "no malpractice" or "not our fault."
These dates have been set months in advance and there mishandling of this situation is costing others, both financially and mentally.
Court dates are often emotional, and dishonesty and lack of support is that last thing someone needs at this time.
Communication could solve this issue if counsels knew what was happening rather than feeling flogged off. It may also mean that there were judges where they were meant to be and avoid the issue entirely!
And what about if they actually said "Sorry, our fault."? That might make a difference too.
But often because of embedded culture, there is no sorry, there is no vulnerability, there is only pointing the finger elsewhere.
What Can You Do in your business?
If you are noticing these issues within your own company then, as with the culture, the change needs to come from within.
We are focusing on communication here don’t forget, so you can probably guess what I’m going to say:
Communication Culture is Key!
The way we talk to those in our business is as important as how we talk to those who we may be working with or for.
Here are three areas that you can work on which will make a difference to the culture very quickly.
Now you may think that if you are the only one who does it, it won’t make a difference.
Behaviour breeds behaviour. So, when you do, the response you get from people will change too. And a virtuous circle will emerge.
This should be a must is any business at any level. How can you operate if you don’t let people know what is going on? Openness will get everyone pulling in the same direction as they know what each other are doing.
It also helps with attitude and, therefore, culture. Openness will make people feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share experiences without feeling silly! And this feeds the next point…
No one likes to feel silly. But it is easy for your communication to get toxic if you feel nervous to be yourself of feel like you have to get defensive over any comments or critiques.
It may seem hard to believe but maybe, when that chemistry teacher was admonishing you for not knowing your bonds, it was less about belittling you and more that they felt insecure that they had failed to pass on the knowledge effectively?
And so, it was most likely a response to how he felt. So being able to be a bit vulnerable in front of you would have helped.
And, at this point, it pays to be honest…
As with openness, you will get nowhere without honesty. Excuses may offer a quick fix, but in the long run they will only cause more grief.
To continue with the school theme, you will fare far better if you tell the teacher you didn’t do your homework because you "didn’t understand the topic", than if you say, "the dog ate it!"
Sure, you may have to face some consequences in the short run but at least when it comes up in the exam you will know what to do, because "the dog ate this page of my textbook" won’t fly so well with an exam board.
The same applies to when you are working with others. If you are honest about the situation rather than trying to hide it, cover up or point the finger elsewhere, then people are more accommodating and understanding, because they understand your situation and are less threatened themselves.
So, if you put these three things together, you will start to build a positive communication culture, where people say what needs to be said without being worried about the consequences.
Let me know how you get on!
And if you would like some help with that, then book in a Game Plan Call with me and we can work on your communication game plan together.