Why Is Communication So HARD?

CRS 21 | Communication


Communication seems so simple, but in all cases, there’s just never enough. Even with the amount of ways we are able to reach each other now, we have all suffered from the effects of miscommunication. As much as we like to believe we are good at it, we have to admit how we sometimes struggle with it. Why, then, is communication so hard? We tackle the different reasons that complicate the way we speak to one another and how we can overcome them, looking into how the world moves today and how we move along with it.

Listen to the podcast here:

Why Is Communication So HARD?

I was looking at this post from somebody and it made me laugh. It was this picture of me on one of my Survivor challenges where I had to hold onto a pole and whoever was the last one hanging on wins. I came in second on that challenge and held on for about an hour. The caption on the post said, “If I could make the weekend last, I would hold onto this pole until next Saturday.” I thought that was pretty cute. Nobody can hold on that pole for a week. I was thinking about why I do my shows on Mondays. I do them on Mondays because I wanted to get the week started off right. This way you would be all pumped up and ready for the brand new week ahead. I hope that I’ve been able to help you to get your week started on the right foot. To talk about some great things that will make you feel better about yourself, about your family, about your jobs, about everything that you have accomplished in life so far. That is where are my head was at. I love my weekends as well.

I love to go to those haunted houses. We went to Busch Gardens in Tampa with my kids. My husband had the flu so he couldn’t come. I love going to haunted houses but when I went, I enjoyed it more than last. You go into those houses sometimes and they push you in so quickly that you’re right behind the people in front of you. If you’re right behind them, then you miss out on all the surprises and it’s not that fun because you know exactly what’s going to happen. My little trick is I always let the people in front of me go into the next room and then we start going. We had a great time. I’ve been at Busch Gardens so many times, but I haven’t been there in around five years or so. We rode SheiKra and I posted a picture on my Instagram account and the picture says it all.

We’re on SheiKra and we are all screaming. We waited for the front row and it was well worth it. If you’re going on SheiKra, you should wait for the first row. It’s the best ride ever. I already want to go back and ride it again. It was so much fun. If you don’t know what SheiKra is, it’s this roller coaster. It has eight seats across. Your legs are dangling, you’re harnessed in because you go straight up and then you pause for a moment and then you go straight down. When you get to the tippy top and you’re leaning forward ready to go down, they stop the ride just so you can feel your stomach drop one more time before you go straight down. It is fabulous. Shout out to Bush Gardens in Tampa.

Influencing others is the act of getting people to do what you want them to do and making them want to do it. Click To Tweet

On our last episode, I talked about the difference between influence and manipulation. I love this topic because there are so many people who struggle with understanding that influence is great. Influence is a positive skill to have. It reveals your passion for your vision and about a topic. That’s so important to you because it shows just how committed you are to talk about it and to get others to believe in what you believe in. It is very powerful. If you have good intentions and you’re talking about your ideas and your vision, you need others to see what you see, that is very powerful. That is exactly what you should be doing. If you’re being sneaky or if you’re leaving out specifics on purpose because you don’t want to share the risks, that’s bad intentions. That’s malice and that’s when you fall into the category of manipulation. Manipulation is not something you want to be known for. It’s based on deceit. Only you know what your intentions are. Only you know if you’re telling the full story. Only you know if you’re influencing or manipulating. I urge you to influence and to be successful at that skill. Influencing others is the act of getting people to do what you want them to do, but make them want to do it.

I talked about four things. It starts with character, commitment, confidence and courage. Character is how you act when no one’s around. It’s who you are as a person. Don’t try to be someone else. Be comfortable with who you are. If you’re not comfortable with who you are, you have the opportunity to change that at any time. Commitment is what you will do whatever it takes to make your vision come true. You are all in. The only way to influence another person is to be all in. Confidence, you have to be knowledgeable in order to be successful. You have to know what you’re talking about so that people feel comfortable with you. The last thing was courage. You have to have the courage to speak up in instances where it may be risky. That was what we talked about the last episode.

What Is Communication?

In this episode, we’re going to talk about why communication is hard. I work with so many companies and in every single one, if you look at the employee survey, the number one thing that every company can improve on is communication. Communication seems so simple but in all cases, there’s never enough. We’re going to talk about why communication is so hard for people. When I thought about this topic, it has changed over the years. This is one of my favorite topics because everyone thinks they are so fabulous at communication. We all do. Let’s first start by defining what communication is. It’s a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system. It’s symbols, it’s signs or behaviors. You’re exchanging information from one person to another.

Don't try to be someone else. Be comfortable with who you are. Click To Tweet

Think back to when you were a kid. Have you ever played the telephone game? This is a game where you sit in a circle. There are about ten people in a circle and the first person whispers something into someone else’s ear. There are no questions asked, just listening. The other person, here’s what they said and they proceed to whisper it into the person sitting next to them. It goes around until the entire circle is complete and the last person says out loud what they heard. It is never what the first person said. The message changes as it goes through these ten different people. That’s the biggest issue that we face and that’s why communication is so hard.

The biggest challenge is that everyone processes information differently and we all think we’re the best at it. If you don’t understand how another person digests information, then you won’t be able to get through to them. I would guess that everyone has had some communication problems at one time or another. I can recall talking clearly to a friend when suddenly, their face has this odd look. They’re looking at me as if I’m crazy. That is a clear clue that they have no idea what you’re talking about. Think about it. Have you ever seen that look before? If you’re truthful with yourselves, you will all say yes because it’s happened to all of us. The reason is that all people are different. We deal with that. We’re all bombarded with all sorts of communications. We deal with texts, we deal with emails. We deal with social media, with radio, with television and with billboards. These are all messages coming to us from all different groups, from all different sources, from all different people.

Quantity Of Communication

When you think about all the different messages that each of us deals within this environment. Years ago, it was much simpler. We didn’t have to have the on the go messaging that we have now. Not only do we have to deal with all different types of people and how they digest information, but we also have to figure out what’s the best method of communication for the specific piece of information that you want to talk about. The world of communication has become much more complex. Let’s talk about quantity. There’s always someone trying to get your attention. How do you prioritize the messages?

CRS 21 | Communication
Communication: One thing that you can’t buy more of is time. You only have the same amount of time every single day.


Most of the time, we would love to just turn off all our social media, turn off our emails, turn off our phones to hear nothing for just one day. Those days are over unless you’re stranded on a deserted island for 39 days. You think you don’t want those messages, but you crave them by the end of those 39 days. That is the only time when you’re craving these messages of all sorts. The number of emails, the number of instant messages, those things are here to stay. You’ve got to figure out how to make it work. It’s tough to focus on just one thing with all the different things that are surrounding us. That is a typical problem because one thing that you can’t buy more of is time. You only have the same amount of time every single day.

Most of us get hundreds of emails and instant messages and all these things so we must figure out how to prioritize. You have to understand how you operate. Some of us have a good way to prioritize and stay focused and that’s important. If you’re one of those people that gets easily distracted, then you’ve got to figure out how to create an atmosphere where you don’t let that happen. Turn off your cell phone and get yourself focused. Communication is complex and it becomes even more complex with everything that we deal with. Ineffective communication can be frustrating for everyone. If you’re one of those people who is delivering the message, you can get frustrated because you’re wondering why people don’t understand what you’re saying. If you’re the one listening, you can get frustrated because you don’t understand what the other person is talking about.

Our Busy Minds

Add to that, you don’t feel comfortable asking questions because you don’t want to appear to be stupid so you say nothing. You have no idea what they said. You nod your head because you want to pretend you do, but nothing is positive about that situation. You have no idea what’s going on. We deal with this every day. We talk about different ways in which to figure out how do we understand what other people are saying? One of the other things that are very prevalent in this environment is our minds are always on. Our minds are very powerful. It’s like we have this computer inside our brains that’s constantly working. If you’re watching this season of survivor, there is one contestant who is my absolute favorite to watch. His name is Christian and he’s a robotics engineer. The other day he’s chopping through this bamboo. He has no clue what he’s doing or how to do it effectively. He takes the ax and he’s chopping and then he stops for a moment and he looks up.

The only way to influence another person is to be all in. Click To Tweet

You can see his mind racing. He’s calculating when he needs to turn the bamboo to the other side before he steps on it to break it in half. I don’t know if that’s what he’s doing. I get that impression from his facial expression and his actions. I’ve never talked to him about that. What happens in real life is that we make these assumptions on what people are saying to us based on how we interpret it. When I see him doing that, I picture this formula in his brain calculating the depth of the bamboo and how much the ax has penetrated through it when he needs to turn it. When you see him, you could think something different. That is an example of why communication is so challenging because every one of us interprets things differently.

Another challenge that we face with communication is that our brains don’t all work the same way. We each have different experiences and the experiences that we have are unique to each one of us. We use that as a basis for understanding. If we haven’t experienced something, we make an assumption about it. This is another place where communication can break down because we may never talk about it. It may look very clear to us so we just take it as we see it. I talked about how our brains are always on. When you’re in a conversation with somebody, your brain is still working. It’s not always listening to what the other person is saying.

I know that it’s happened to me and it’s happened to some of you. You’re sitting there in a very deep conversation with somebody and all of a sudden, your mind starts wandering off. You think about, “Did I leave my curling iron on at home?” That’s what you’re saying in your mind. You’re worried and you’re retracing your steps. You’re wondering if you unplugged it or if you turned it off. Your mind starts thinking about all the different things that you have to get after work or how excited you’re going to be when you meet your friends for drinks after work. Whatever the case is, your mind wanders and it doesn’t always stay focused in the conversation. If you’re thinking about whether this has happened to you, you’re nodding your head right now thinking, “Yeah, I sometimes drift off. I might not always pay attention to a conversation.” That’s another challenge that we’re faced with in terms of communication. We don’t always stay focused and we’ve all gone through that.

CRS 21 | Communication
Communication: You must be able to influence others through effective communication. You don’t want them to be frustrated because you’re unclear.



One last thing that I wanted to share in terms of challenges that we have in conversations with others is that sometimes you get that confused look with what the actual conversation is all about. I don’t mean these loud conversations, although sometimes they become that. You could have conversations with yourself. You might even say them out loud in a room by yourself. If you’ve had conversations with yourself at times, you may think you’ve had a conversation with somebody else that didn’t take place. It took place in your mind, but it didn’t take place with the other person. That could be another challenge that all of us deal with when we’re dealing with communication.

One-Way Versus Two-Way Communication

There are so many things that can cause ineffective communication. We’ve talked about just a few of them. Now let’s link this back to us. When you think about communication, there are times when you only have one shot to give your pitch. You’ve created your personal vision, you know that you need other people to help you achieve it, then your communication becomes very important. You must be able to influence others through effective communication. You don’t want them to be frustrated because you’re unclear. This is why communication is a skill that all of us must improve. No one will ever say to you that you’ve wasted your time improving your communication skills. It’s the skill that you use all day, every day, at work, at home, at church, at the store. In every single place that you go, you communicate with other people. The first thing that you must understand is that there is a difference between one-way communication and two-way communication.

One-way communication is where one person is talking. You don’t ask questions, they’re just telling you what they want to. An example of one-way communication is that telephone game that I talked about. You don’t get the opportunity to ask any questions. Even if you didn’t hear the person whisper in your ear the right way, there are no questions. The game of telephone, at that point, is you make up something. That’s why at the end of the game, the answer that somebody says out loud is funny. With those ten people, there are four or five times when somebody didn’t hear exactly so they make something up. That’s the problem with communication. In the game of telephone, it’s funny and that’s good but in real life, it’s not so funny when your message comes back different than you expected. The time is wasted and people are frustrated. Let’s say they were working on something that’s very different than what you needed them to. One-way communication is the least effective way to communicate and you should never rely on it to be effective. Unfortunately, there are times where it does take place and you have to deal with it.

Communication is complex and it becomes even more complex with everything that we deal with. Click To Tweet

Sometimes when your boss says something to you in a rush and they do a drive-by. They meet you in the hall, they stopped by your office, they stop by your desk, they give you a two minute, “This is what I need. I need it by then.” They walk away and you’re sitting there with your mouth open wondering when you’re going to ask that question because you didn’t fully understand what they’re asking for. You go about your business doing what you think you heard and you hope that it’s the right thing. If it’s not, then if it took you two hours to do, you just wasted those two hours. One-way communication is only good in the game of telephone because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

On the other hand, two-way communication is very effective. This means that there’s someone delivering a message and other people are listening and then they’re given the opportunity to ask questions to ensure that what they heard is what you said. We talked about perceptions and people have different perceptions. Just because you said what you considered to be very clear, they might not have understood it in that way, which is why you always want the ability to ask questions. One issue is, will you ask a question? Will you have the courage to ask a question?

How many times have you been in a situation where you clearly didn’t understand what someone was saying? You left and figured that you would ask someone else who was possibly in the same meeting as you or who was standing there as your friend was talking. Whatever the situation was, you didn’t have the courage to ask a question. I know that you are nodding your heads out because all of us have done it from time to time. How frustrating would it be if you asked another person and they gave you the wrong information or they didn’t know themselves? You left not knowing what you needed to do or what that other person expected from you. Now you’re more frustrated than ever.

CRS 21 | Communication
Communication: When you’re thinking about communication, you have to consider who you’re communicating to.


Avoiding Miscommunication

Why is it that we are so worried about asking questions? It doesn’t make sense to me. If you don’t understand something, just ask. If you are having that question, then there are other people in that meeting that have the same question. We talked about courage and this is a clear example where sometimes we sabotage ourselves by not having the courage to speak up and to speak out. You’re only hurting yourself if you don’t ask those questions. When you don’t understand something, just ask. When you have these miscommunications, there are ways to avoid them. You have to have the courage to ask questions. It’s not just the people who listen that need to ask questions. If you’re delivering a message or receiving a message, you should be asking questions both the same. One time I was having a meeting with about ten direct reports and I was sitting around the table. We had this big project and I was giving each one of my direct reports instructions on what they needed to do next. They were all nodding their heads. They all were jotting down things on their notepads.

I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve got this. Everyone knows exactly what they need to do. This project is going to be fabulous. I am super excited.” The following week when we came back into the board room, I went around the table and I said, “What is your update from last week to this week in terms of moving the project forward?” They all looked at me as if I had two heads. I was like, “You were all nodding your heads, you were all taking down notes, writing on paper in front of you so I assumed that everyone was on board.” To my surprise, they weren’t. They had questions but they didn’t ask them.

As the person leading the meeting, you also have the responsibility to ensure that people understand your message. We wasted a week. Nobody did anything on the project because I didn’t reflect back with them. I didn’t make sure that each one of them understood exactly what I wanted them to do. Two-way communication is a two-way street. The people who are listening to your message have the responsibility to ask questions when they don’t understand. The person delivering the message also has the responsibility to ask questions to make sure that every single one of those people understands what you wanted them to understand. To ensure that people heard what you wanted, you have to make sure that you ask them questions. What you say to them is, “Tell me exactly what you’re going to do for next week.” Make them put it in their own words because when they put it in their own words, they begin to digest it.

To ensure that people heard what you wanted, you have to make sure that you ask them questions. Click To Tweet

If you’re expecting people to do things and you don’t check in with them and they interpret things differently, you’re going to have some problems. This communication technique is not just for business, it’s for all types of communication. It doesn’t matter. If you’re trying to get your message across, isn’t it smart to make sure that the people who are hearing and interpreting it, that they do that in the way that you intended? Have you ever said something and people didn’t make the connection and didn’t understand what you meant? They might’ve taken it in the wrong way. If you ask questions and you clarify what you mean, it eliminates these types of problems. Taking a shortcut can create a very frustrating experience for all of you. If you have kids, test it on them first. When you tell them to do something, have them repeat back in their own words what they’re going to do because it does two things. It ensures that they understood what you said and when it comes out of their mouth, it makes it real. They are committing to getting it done. It’s that subliminal effect so it’s powerful.

There are so many examples to share with you. This is one of my favorite topics because it’s one where you are constantly learning and enhancing your skill set. Just when you thought you were fabulous, you learn something new. One more example that I love to tell because it shows some of the things that we take for granted, especially in our environment. We talked to people with all different backgrounds. That’s what I do for a living. I was delivering a leadership training session for a group of executives in another country. All the executives had on headsets. I was delivering it in English and there was a translator who would say it in Chinese for them. The part of the program that I was talking about was I was focusing on different ways to achieve the same result. I used a known analogy. What I said was, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” It’s something we say all the time. They all looked at me as if I was a monster. Why would I want to skin a cat? I saw the looks on their faces and I looked over to the translator and I knew that the analogy did not work. It was horrifying.

I stopped and gave a very different example that they were able to understand what I meant. Imagine if I didn’t realize that they didn’t understand that analogy. They would have walked out of the room thinking that I was a cat killer. They would not understand anything that I talked about or make the connection that I was trying to have them make. When you’re thinking about communication, you have to consider who you’re communicating to. Communication is complex. We all come from different backgrounds with different experiences and different perceptions. That itself is a challenge that we must deal with every single day. Why do you think the show Survivor is so successful? Most of it is due to the communication issues between the people on the show. All the people come from different backgrounds, with different experiences, and they’re attempting to work together under extreme circumstances. That’s what happens every day except without the challenging circumstances and the environmental issues of starving and freezing and all of that.

Communication is a skill and it must be worked on so that you can improve it. There are cues to look for to see how and if people understand what you’re saying. One of the misconceptions is that as the people delivering the information, you don’t have to ask questions. After this, we all realize that it’s required by everyone to ensure that effective communication happens or else people are going to look at you as if you’re a monster. Because you said something just one time, it doesn’t mean that people get it. You must share your message seven times for people to understand what you’re talking about. Communication is a constant process with so many areas open to communication breakdowns. Misunderstandings happen all day, every day. The key is to minimize those by consciously focusing on your own personal communication style. You can improve your communication. You can ask questions of others who don’t communicate well. That’s your takeaway.

Do what it takes to improve yourself first. Make sure that you are always using two-way communication. Have the courage to ask questions when you don’t understand. I can talk about communication all day long because there are so many examples where things go wrong. There are more tips on how to improve your communication skills in my book, Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. You can purchase my book on my website, www.CarolynJRivera.com. The Carolyn Rivera Show is all about you, the audience. Follow me on Instagram, @TheCarolynRiveraShow. If you are ready to ignite your will to win, enhance leadership effectiveness, build a strategic plan or reprogram your mind, go to my website and send me a message. My passion is to watch people succeed and helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible. Believe, commit, achieve. That is the secret sauce that you are looking for. This is Mama C signing off.

Important Links:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *