Do You Speak in Code?
Why are they not getting it? We told them, why do they not understand? These are the questions that often come up when you or a member of your team is trying to figure out why members of the public leave you with the impression that you are not communicating well. Here is an "Aha" moment for you: it may not be you have not communicated with them, but you have sent your message in code and they cannot understand it.
I am not implying that you are deliberately keeping things from your residents; rather you are trying to share all you can with them. However the way you are communicating my be coming across in code. It is not making sense to them. It may sound like gibberish. I recently experienced this epiphany, when I was discussing our communication efforts surrounding a large city project with a newly elected official. She opined that sometimes when we, the government, speak it is similar to the Movie "Wind Talkers" with Nicholas Cage. She said that we put the message out to be heard and understood by the general public, but it is going out in code and most of our listening public do not comprehend the message. Hence, our communication efforts. despite our best intentions fail.
I am not proposing that most of you are speaking to your residents in Navajo like the code used in the movie. But, I am saying that sometimes we do speak in a foreign language that is in my case spoken in local government settings and I bet there are times when you may speak in a code in your business setting that I would not comprehend.
This takes me back to a time many moons ago when I was in the U.S. Army serving in Germany. I went on a weekend getaway with a soldier buddy of mine to London, England. I remember sitting in a London pub and I was looking forward to hearing the English language spoken instead of German. I was excited to be at a place where there would be no communication barrier. In that pub, I learned that even though we spoke the same language, I could not understand what they were saying unless they were speaking directly to me and I understood the context of the conversation. They were speaking the same language, but there was a code utilized that I did not comprehend.
Even though we share words through press releases, or we push information out on social media, we may not be clearly communicating with our intended listener. You may be thinking you are being transparent; when in actuality you are just transmitting noise. This noise can be just as harmful as silence.
To successfully communicate, the message has to be clearly transmitted and clearly received by the intended audience. The encryption is put on by our experiences and the decryption is applied by the experiences of the audience. To enhance your communications be sure to identify your audience and share the message consistent with their experiences. Ask for feedback to make sure the message was clearly communicated. If it was not, adjust the message and share it again.
Remember, just because it makes sense to you, it may not make sense to them. You are the expert in your field. Your audience is not. It is your job to share your intended message in way they can understand. Watch your use of code. It can create confusion, disconnection, and disharmony. These are just the opposite of what you want when you attempt to clearly communicate and engage your community.