Whenever contact is made, communication occurs. Every time you open your mouth, roll your eyes, purse your lips, nod your head, cross your arms, or clear your throat, someone is going to assign meaning to it. Hand gestures, voice tone, and body posture can send a signal that you like or dislike someone or are happy or unhappy about something. Even silence conveys a message.
Here is a good example. The human resource director of a rapidly growing company in a remote part of the mid-west received a call from an executive recruiter that a recent MBA graduate from a top-tier university would be in town for a short time and would like to arrange an interview.
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, the director hastily assembled several key people to convene early the next morning. Everyone on this makeshift selection committee was looking forward to meeting such a highly qualified candidate.
Although the candidate’s answers to their questions demonstrated a high level of intelligence and solid understanding of what the job entailed, his responses were brief and unenthusiastic. Throughout the interview he was lackadaisical and sometimes sat expressionless as if he was bored.
Not wanting to waste any more time or effort, the director thanked the candidate for coming and closed the interview. After a brief discussion, the committee concluded that the candidate was obviously not interested and voted not to consider him for the position.
Some time later, the human resource director learned that a rival company had hired the candidate who was exceeding all their expectations. A follow-up call to the recruiter further revealed that this stellar candidate did poorly in the interview because his father had died suddenly and he had flown in to arrange the funeral and to look for a job in order to be near his ailing mother.
So, who is to blame here: the candidate for not explaining his circumstances or the interview team for making a judgment based solely on his behavior during the interview?
No doubt, you could share similar misunderstandings from your own work history. If you were to dig a little deeper into these common miscommunications you would likely find that the parties involved probably did not know or trust each other, so neither side put much effort into providing clarification to the other.
Likability and trustworthiness are major factors in determining just how much effort those on either end of the communication link are willing to invest in trying to understand each other.
If you like and trust someone, you tend to overlook that person’s faults and shortcomings. You will probably give that person a little slack also when it comes to tolerating his or her quirky traits and annoying habits.
That same courtesy may not be extended to people you neither like nor trust. You are prone to be intolerant and unforgiving of their faults as well. In fact, you tend to view anything these people do or say with a critical eye and a suspicious mind.
Communicating nonjudgmental feedback to someone you neither like nor trust is difficult to achieve without leaving behind hurt feelings. Underachievers and non-performers are not likely to reach Doer status unless you are open, honest, and direct with them.
Providing negative feedback is one-half of the relationship equation; receiving it is the other half. Communicating with potential Doers requires that you do both in order for them to accept what you say as truth and to feel confident acting upon it.