We tend to be less open and direct with people we don’t know, don’t like, and don’t trust, which is not fair to them. Being truthful with some people and not with others impedes your ability to communicate openly and honestly with everyone.
This may sound silly and not worth getting worked up over, but it is serious business. There can be calamitous consequences resulting from misunderstandings between people who do not communicate openly and honestly with their coworkers.
Take for example the degree of cooperation needed between operating room nurses and surgeons in a typical medical center where relationships are extremely critical to a good patient outcome. Collaborative relationships between the surgeons and nurses are formed wherever expectations are communicated clearly. Unfortunately, this can sometimes turn negative when expectations are not clearly communicated.
In one hospital setting, a handful of doctors were disliked by most of the nurses and a similar number of nurses were disliked by many of the doctors. The really sad thing about the “unpopular” people in this case was that they were unaware and therefore unconcerned about how others felt about them. For all they knew those whispered conversations about “difficult people” in the staff lounge were about someone else—certainly not about them. Perhaps they were clueless, but, is it right to label them if no one was providing them with honest feedback? Is it really their fault for not getting it?
Whenever personal contact is made communication occurs. Every time you open your mouth, roll your eyes, purse your lips, nod your head or scratch your backside someone is going to put meaning to it. Simple things like hand gestures, voice tone, and body posture can send a powerful signal that you like or dislike someone or some thing. It may not be true at all, but the signal is received just the same.
When clueless people eventually discover the truth about how they come across to others, they react with surprise and dismay. Once they get over the initial shock, the first question they ask is, Why didn’t someone tell me before this? Why indeed. When that question is posed to the difficult person’s supervisor and coworkers, their typical response is, How could he not known, we gave him enough clues?
Clues are for mystery books and board games, not the workplace. You must be clear and direct when communicating with people regardless of whether or not they’re likeable. Clues and hints, no matter how strong, seldom get the desired point across.