How to get your ideas across the canyon of misunderstanding

Posted on December 05, 2016
How to get your ideas across the canyon of misunderstanding

Diana Kawarsky portraitThe difference between intentions and perceptions in work relationships can be vast, says Diana Kawarsky, a facilitator at the Schulich ExecEd. In fact, she likens communication to throwing ideas across a canyon and hoping they get to the other side intact. “We hope they are perceived correctly by others,” she says, “but your personal communication style can affect that perception.”

The ability to influence, persuade and communicate with people in a positive way in order to achieve your organizational goals is one of the keys to success in any business or professional environment. Kawarsky, a leading expert in effective business communications and a published author, says defining and refining your message for maximum clarity goes a long way towards creating healthier work relationships. There are tools that we can each learn to make this happen every time.

A manager might approach her director for a raise, for example, and commit verbal and non-verbal communication errors that send the wrong signals. If the director responds with a list of reasons why the raise is not forthcoming – yet – it then becomes important to know how to receive that feedback in a positive way in order to learn how you can meet expectations.

Even basic communication between co-workers can be a challenge if you don’t know how to filter out “noise in the system” and develop skills to clarify intentions that focus on priorities and the way forward. And that way forward is made a lot smoother with clear intentions and leveraged perceptions.

High-trust, high functioning departments understand how to use communication strategies to shape effective messages and positively influence relationships. They understand and practise the characteristics of ideal communicators.

For starters, you need to learn how to identify speaking goals and use them to guide you to an appropriate way of saying things. Understanding the four basic learning styles and how to adjust your message for each of them is also a key characteristic of effective teams.

Effective communicators also know how to analyze an audience to address listeners’ needs, wants, priorities and goals. They avoid the perils of using blunt language and develop an ability to quickly and skillfully rephrase harshly worded comments into more neutral suggestions. Non-verbal communication is also important – avoid distracting gestures or body language that triggers unwanted reactions by learning how people react to them.

By studying these communication channels and learning when to use them, you can make improved choices that better reflect and showcase your skills, knowledge, expertise and value to your organization.


Schulich ExecEd’s 3-day program, Interpersonal Skills for Healthier Work Relationships with Diana Kawarsky starts Jan. 23, 2017. For more information or to register, visit the program web page.