From Confusion to Clarity: Navigating Common Conversation Traps

Unravel workplace communication confusion to help you and your team communicate effectively and with clarity.
Women discussing at conference
Women & Leadership New Zealand
2 mins

Ever find yourself walking away from a chat with a coworker, scratching your head, wondering, “What on earth were we talking about?” It’s like you’re missing a crucial puzzle piece, which can be totally frustrating and a time waster. But we’re here to help you tackle these head-scratching moments and bring some much-needed clarity to the table. Here are four common traps and how to handle them.

1. Untangling Blinking Words

Blinking words are words that can have multiple meanings based on someone’s individual perspective. Words like “innovation,” “leadership,” “culture,” and “team-player” are notorious for this. They’re like chameleons, changing their meaning depending on the person’s interpretation. These words muddy the waters and can stop you from developing a shared understanding of the problem or opportunity.

Take, for example, the phrase, “The culture of this place is not healthy.” People will have an immediate reaction based on their own beliefs. But what does “healthy culture” really mean? Is it like eating kale salads, or more like team bonding activities? By digging deeper with questions like, “What behaviours signal an unhealthy culture?” or “Is it the culture in the team, department, or whole company?” you shed light on the murky waters and get everyone on the same page.

 

2. Tackling Generalisations

Have you ever heard someone make a blanket statement like, “Everyone’s unhappy about that decision”?  Statements like this are rarely accurate. You need to dig deeper with questions to get a clearer picture. Asking questions like “How do you know?” or “Who’s really feeling the weight of this?” helps narrow down the issue so you can tackle it head on.

 

3. Unmasking Distortions

Distortions are like putting on tinted glasses; they colour how we see things. Take a team member glancing at their phone during a presentation. The presenter might think, “They’re totally disinterested!” But wait, maybe they’re dealing with a family emergency. Assuming meaning where there might be none leads to misunderstandings. Challenge yourself to question your own assumptions so you can avoid jumping to conclusions.

 

4. Spotting Deletions

Deletions are vague statements leave out crucial details. For example, ‘this is important.’ Who is it important to? Why is it important? Another example is ‘there’s no time.’ No time for what? Why is there no time? Sometimes this will be clear. However, in situations where it is not immediately clear, or where further information is useful, it is important ask follow-up questions to truly understand what is going on.

 

How to Be the Clarity Hero

By being curious and using these conversational techniques, you’ll not only save yourself from confusion but also guide your team to clearer, smoother communication.

Looking to improve your communication skills? Check out our leadership development programs for guidance.