Why is communicating so difficult?

When our emotions trick us

Today, I see once again how communication in companies is vital and yet difficult. We had to prepare a work document in order to share important information. When we delivered the document, we found  out that despite the discussion we had at the beginning of the project, the document did not meet the client's expectations.

In retrospect, I find that our communication did not allow us to clarify the client's specific expectations. We could have asked him to give us an example of what he was waiting for and show him our results sooner; But yes there is a but. It is clear that the client did not (could not) take time for these clarifications.

I always like to ask myself the question Why and enrich it with more questions that arise. This helps me to understand deeply the background of any situation and to initiate real changes in my behavior. We change when when understand the usefulness of it at the emotional level.

Why don't we  want to communicate our needs from the beginning?

Do we really know what we want?

Probably not and this is the case quite often. In the corporate world not knowing seems to be unacceptable. This black / white, knowing / ignorance dichotomy prevents people from expressing their doubts and makes them hermetic to questions at all times.

Can we express our needs?

There are two aspects to the expression of needs. First, we must be aware of them and understand their origins. This is not part of the things we learn in our societies. In general, we learn quickly enough to meet others demands in order to be accepted. Identifying our needs therefore requires the desire to learn it. So far, I have found very few places to not say none where we could learn how to express our needs. It is therefore a solitary work or accompanied by a coach, or even a psychologist if we feel pain.

Where do our needs come from?

Our needs are translated by the presence of positive or negative emotions. A positive emotion will push us to want to reproduce the conditions that made it possible while a negative emotion urges us to avoid them. The vocabulary of negative emotions is totally forbidden in business because when a person expresses a negative emotion we interpret it as a personal attack. We should realize that these emotions reflect an unsatisfied need.

Once we have identified our emotions. It may be difficult for us to express them because this expression is not encouraged in companies and even society. Men have way more difficulty with this because they have been educated to show no signs of weakness. Expressing the impact of behavior on our emotional state is an important step towards constructive communication.

What do our emotions mean?

Our emotions inform us about our needs. It seems essential to learn to recognize them and to decipher their meanings. Did you notice that the same emotions arise regularly? That the same situations seem to be repeated with different actors?

We all have needs and it is our role to recognize them and to express ourselves so that it is easier for our interlocutor to understand what he can do to help us satisfy them. Be careful, the others are not in the duty to satisfy them. They may not have the capacity or desire to do so. However, identifying our emotions and the needs attached to them eases and allows us to accept them.

Can we express all our needs at work?

In principle yes. We must however take into account our level of comfort with the person in front of us. You should always start within a relationship where you feel comfortable. Then with time enlarge the circle in which you express your needs. Any change requires time and energy. Do not get discouraged if you forget and get back on track :)

How should I express my needs?

The non-violent communication developed by psychotherapist Marshall B. Rosenberg indicates a four-step process:

  1. Observe the behavior that makes you react
  2. Identify and express feelings that arise
  3. Identify and express your needs
  4. Formulate an demand (not a requirement)
Ps: I invite you to read the book "Words are windows or they are walls - Initiation to nonviolent communication" by Marshall B. Rosenberg for more details.

Do we ask questions to determine the needs of the other?

It may be tricky to ask questions to another person in order to determine their needs. You can use the pattern as to recognize your needs by asking questions or expressing your assumptions to understand the other. This can help you get closer to their real needs. You can start with phrases like:
"When you do / say this, is what you want ... or rather ..."
"I'd like to understand what you need to reach X. Can you tell me more about your expectations?"

Asking to someone else gives them the space to express themselves and to be better understood and even to better understand himself. Listening to the someone else can also allows you to listen to yourself.

Emotions can screw up communication if not listened to 

Communication is not easy because it must be done with consciousness. When our emotions take control we may disconnect from our consciousness and say or do things we would have not done if we were able to recognize the emotions and those needs early enough. This is where we need to develop strategies to reduce the risk of saying or doing things that will negatively impact the relationship. Depending on your resilience level and the one of your counterpart it can be more or less difficult to revert to a positive relationship after a clash. I invite you to find our strategy to avoid going so far: go for a toilet break, go for a walk, ask to have a conversation later ...

Communication should allow you to align with your needs and those of others.

Communicating can be learned

In order to learn how to communicate effectively. One must first learn how to communicate with oneself. Understanding our emotions and needs is a first step to a better exchange with others and allows us with time to create a two way communication where everyone is free to be and feel as he is. 

Question of the week: 

In which situations do you have the most difficulty expressing yourself and why?

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