Monthly Archives: October 2016

“What We’ve Got Here Is Failure To Communicate”

This famous line from the classic film Cool Hand Luke is unfortunately more prophetic than we might like to admit. We think of communication as a straightforward process: I talk, you listen, you talk, I listen, we understand each other. What’s so hard about that? Sometimes communication actually is that straightforward, but often it’s not.

The Bay of Pigs provides a dramatic example of communication gone wrong. When President John F. Kennedy asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their opinion on the invasion of Cuba in 1961, he was told that the proposed operation had “a fair chance of success.” The Joint Chiefs didn’t explain what they meant by “a fair chance;” Kennedy presumed it meant a “good chance” of victory. Years later the author of the Joint Chiefs’ report said that, in his mind, a “fair chance” meant 3 to 1 against success. Because of this misunderstanding, the President approved the ill-fated attack that caused unnecessary deaths and led to a historic foreign policy debacle.

People commonly assume that misunderstandings, as happened between Kennedy and his advisors, are quite rare. But the process of human communication is actually highly susceptible to error. Here are three ways communication can go off the rails when we interact with each other:

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Level Up Your Candor

“If you want to see someone in real pain, watch someone who knows who they are and defaults on it on a regular basis.”

– Pat Murray, management consultant

 

Candor is the way in which we express who we really are. But as Murray notes we often default on it. When we do, the consequences can create discord within us and in the relationships important to our success.

 

Part of the problem is that candor means different things to different people. Many of us think of candor as “telling it like it is,” and “callin’ ‘em like we see ‘em.” But the word candor comes from Latin, meaning “to shine.” That’s what real candor is about—allowing both you and those around you to shine by speaking and listening, openly and genuinely. That’s not always so easy as the “candor continuum” graphic illustrates. Continue reading