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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Cost of Silence

Obvious statement of the century in 3, 2, 1...Whether you run a company, a department or a household you know the importance of communication. Without communication people are lost, misdirected and unable to obtain their goals. But there is a far more dangerous side of "not communicating" with the people who rely on you than mere lack of information.

It is impossible "not to communicate." Even when you say nothing, you're communicating. Humans read into messages of body language, avoidance and silence. We assign an emotion to these silent messages. When you fail to communicate (or refuse to set aside time to do so), the message you are sending is that this person is not important to you. Whether it's a child or an employee, silence is not golden. Errors in communication (forgetting to include someone on an email or failure to notify them of a cancellation of a meeting) may seem like an oversight to you but if that is the only form of communication they receive (or don't receive) from you, it will carry a far deeper and more loudly heard message. The less you communicate with someone on a regular basis, the more an "oversight" will look like a shun. The amount of negativity perceived in your lack of communication is directly related to the amount of communication you have with that individual on a regular basis. The rarer your communication, the more your "neglect" will appear intentional.

The best remedy for a communication gaff is not ignoring it. The person already feels ignored. You are compounding the problem if you choose to say nothing. Failure to communicate is fixed simply by communicating.  Initiate conversation, apologize for the oversight. Do not mention you are busy or your head has been elsewhere that serves to exacerbate their feelings of alienation. Apologize and engage. Keep the apology short and move onto something about them.  

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