Last year I loosened my attachment to the spoken word, which may sound unusual for someone who coaches in social communication. People tend to assume that the words they speak are received. I have had the opportunity to observe that this does not always happen.
My interest in communication took shape when I studied languages at University. It developed when I led a team to coach my son to learn to speak. I am interested that when we speak we can assume our words are received as they were intended. However in the space between 2 people the meaning can be lost, it can be as if the words had never been spoken.
In business, as in life, it is easy to label apparent non-listeners. When a person is told to do ‘x’, not doing ‘x’ can raise questions. What if the ‘x’ can be done by simply adjusting our way of communicating, including checking that our message was received.
I am privileged to work with people with social communication difference, many of whom are skilled to perform to a high level when work has been communicated in way that makes sense to them. One candidate we have worked with, for example, tends to process just the first part of a sentence, this is his social communication difficulty. In a previous job, his work was delivered verbally every morning. He spent his day working on what he hoped was his ‘to do’ list, only to come in the next morning to be told (verbally) what he hadn’t done correctly and what he needed to do that day. By simply changing to having his work delivered by email, or having conversations followed up by an email, he was freed to get on with his job, which he did very well.
By coaching in social communication, we train employees on the Autistic Spectrum to let their colleagues know what they have taken away from the conversation, as it may be different to what they think. Strangely enough, as we train companies in working with people with social communication difference we find that this is not exclusive to Autism. Considering the communication style and world experience of employees, customers or colleagues, encourages us to challenge assumptions that may impact not just some days, or when working with someone with a diagnosis of social communication difference, but every day, as we all make meaning differently.
When we drop the conventions of social communication and focus on meaning being received our conversations can change for the better, my candidates have taught me that.
The spoken word at times can be over rated, let’s start to communicate instead.
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