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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The #1 Communication Error

The number one communication error is called the "usual error."

The usual error  is assuming that other people are just like you.

Assuming that others think like you, would react to a certain situation like you would, or value the same things you do — all of these are examples of the usual error. Psychologists call it false consensus bias: we project our own perceptions, opinions, and emotions onto another person, as if our experiences were theirs. We all do this. We do it all the time; that’s why it’s called the usual error. Making the usual error isn’t something to fear, it’s something to notice. In our experience, most miscommunications stem from the usual error. When you learn to recognize that it’s happening, you can turn arguments into opportunities for understanding.

The usual error manifests in many forms, often subtly. We assume that others’ boundaries are the same as ours. We assume that others’ communication styles and personality types are the same as ours. We assume that others can know what we’re thinking and know what we need without us having to ask. We assume that others’ definitions for words are the same as ours and we judge the intent behind their words based on our own assumptions. We assume that others’ memories of shared events are the same as ours. We assume that others value the same things we do and fear the same things we do. We assume that others’ bodies have the same physical limitations and thresholds as ours. We assume all kinds of things about other people all the time.

Everyone does this. It’s not bad or wrong; it’s part of being human. The usual error is something that happens behind the scenes, in the subconscious mind.

One way to reduce the frequency of the usual error is to do regular clarity checks with the people you are communicating with. Rather than just assuming that the message you're receiving (or sending) has the same meaning as the other person--stop and confirm that it actually does. It's a simple practice but one that will prevent unnnecessary misunderstandings and all the consequences (both major and minor) that go with them.

We've probably made the usual error in writing this blog by assuming that the reader will relate to the examples in the same way we've intended them.

And so it goes...

To your greater success,

Peter Mclees, Leadership Coach and Trainer
Mobile: 323-854-1713

P. S. Smart Development has an exceptional track record helping ports, sales teams, restaurants, stores, distribution centers, food production facilities, nonprofits, and other businesses create a strong culture, leadership bench strength, coaching skills and the teamwork necessary for growth. Having worked with several companies throughout their growth cycle, we have valuable insights and strategies that would help any late stage startup, small or medium sized company achieve sustained growth and prosperity.