It is not a very innovative statement to say that communication is key when it comes to building relationships of any type. Basically, the very vast majority of conflicts that can come up when two people share any kind of bond with each other can easily be avoided by keeping communication as your #1 priority. Assuming stuff, hiding other stuff, waiting until the last minute to break out something to someone, or segmenting information are just a couple of examples of how the lack of (or wrongly handled) communication can really end up causing chaos.
So let’s imagine this situation: it’s 9 in the morning and you are supposed to deliver a presentation to your boss by 7 pm, but still haven’t had the time to even start thinking of it because of a lot of other stuff that’s been given to you. So you start building the presentation, but your internet connection dies and you are unable to do it properly, but don’t want to tell your boss because then they’d know you just started. So then, you decide to go work from a cafe that has wifi, and can finally get started… until uh-oh: the person in charge of sending you the data for the presentation messed up and sent you a file that’s all wrong, but you still refuse to tell your boss about it. So you figure the easiest way to get away with it is to just go ahead and fix the database on your own, but you are no expert in it, so a couple of hours pass before you are ready to continue your presentation. And then, an unrelated problem that requires your assistance comes up, and you need to have a call with another department’s manager, and a whole other bunch of hours pass again. So now it’s almost 5 pm and your presentation is still in diapers, but you are still determined to not quit, and having it finished by 7 pm, with your boss knowing nothing about the many situations that came up. So it’s 6:45 pm, and you are almost done building a very mediocre presentation that will probably not fulfill your boss’s expectations, but hey, at least it’s something. But then, someone at a different table in your cafe accidentally trips over your wire, your computer falls and crashes into the floor, and you completely lose your data and your presentation. And only then do you decide to inform your boss about what happened, so along with your data, presentation, and computer, you also lose their trust.
In case you didn’t notice yet, there was a way to avoid all of this chaotic sequence of unfortunate events: simply letting people know things in advance. And that’s why today we’ll be diving in a little deeper on the whole communication as a priority matter. The thing is it’s not only about telling people what they should do, no, it’s also doing it soon enough so they can plan ahead, and do it in a proper way. So let’s review three of the main things that should almost always be communicated, and which are the best ways of doing so, shall we?
There will come times where, due to personal reasons, your work-related stuff will lose priority or will be jeopardized. And no respect-worthy client or boss will expect you to be a robot who just does and delivers work, it’s completely normal and human to have more on your plate than just creating that presentation. However, it is important that you explain what’s going on, and how it’ll affect what you have you do. Are you going through a complicated situation? Let them know and give them an estimated term for things to get better. Is there something crazy happening in your life and you are having trouble concentrating? Let them know and explain to them how you’ll try to sort it out, and how they could help you. In general, if you explain yourself respectfully, sincerely and as ahead as possible, the people you work with will appreciate it and be much more likely to collaborate.
Bad news comes in all shapes, sizes, and times. And no person who has been through the human experience expects to live their whole life without them because that’d be just nonsense. However, there are some best practices that we can all agree on in order to approach them, handle them, and tell them as gently as possible:
- Tell them as soon as you know them, so people can prepare for it
- No sugar coating, tell people what you know and what’s expected to happen. Making sure no client or boss has unrealistic expectations is key to building and maintaining healthy and functional relationships.
- Limit the use of the word “but” or synonyms, it just cancels what came before. Tell it how it is, people will appreciate your honesty.
- Make empathy your flag. You never know what can be going on in the other person’s side, and how it can affect them. So make sure you do your best to try to understand them and find the best way to let them know what’s going on.
Is there anything that wasn’t clear enough for you to make a good job out of it? Let your client or boss know! It is always better to over-understand something than to get half of it, and then do a terrible job with it. Did you realize something didn’t work as you thought it did? Ask them about it! You think it’d be better for your project to have someone else’s opinion on it? Ask them to give it to you! There are no such things as stupid questions (except for the ones that really are very stupid), there are just people who don’t dare ask about it, and end up doing a crappy job. In general, asking away is a lot better than just being quiet and saying yes to everything.
So, as a conclusion, I believe it’s really important to say that people should not over-share, but rather they should use communication as a channel in the way of building respect-based and functional relationships. As a rule of thumb: when in doubt, over-share.