By Jeff Beals
Communication is perhaps the most important ingredient of success. When done properly, communication facilitates business transactions, makes learning possible and greases the operational wheels of any organization. Not only can teams not function without it, you could argue teams don’t even exist without it.
It’s so important, that companies spend big dollars trying to make their employees better at it. After all, those people and organizations that are not good at communication tend to suffer.
Though you can never master all there is to know about it, developing better communication skills should be a life-long pursuit for all professionals.
There’s no doubt about communication’s importance, but is it possible to “over communicate?”
Yes, it is. I found proof of this recently at two different airports.
While passing through Chicago’s Midway Airport recently, I heard an announcement that sounded something like this: “The Chicago Airport System reminds you to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.” The announcement then went on to remind all of us harried travelers that this is cold-and-flu season and that we should use tissues when blowing our noses.
Really? I learned this lesson long before I enrolled in kindergarten.
A couple days later, I was passing through the Detroit airport and noticed the following sign permanently affixed to the men’s room wall: “Please use button if additional flushes are necessary.”
Really? I discovered that on my own the first time I encountered an automatically flushing toilet in the late 1980’s.
Indeed, our society is “over-communicative,” and it appears to be getting worse and worse each year.
Perhaps we will one day hear an announcement like this: “The Chicago Airport System reminds all passengers that breathing is important. For best results, do it at least 30 times per minute and use your diaphragm to expand and contract your lungs. Thank you for flying Chicago’s Midway International Airport.”
Communication is essential. Too much communication is annoying.
While I don’t like it, I understand why large companies and organizations tend to be over-communicative. We live in a litigious society. Everybody is worried about being sued, so we end up with ridiculous warnings and disclaimers. But much of today’s over-communication is not done just for lawsuit prevention. It’s as if people think, “We have a public address system, so we better find an excuse to use it.”
Airport authorities, companies and large organizations aren’t the only sources of over-communication. People do it too. I’m sometimes guilty. We all know that person who tells the same story over-and-over. How about the joke teller who keeps repeating the punch line several times after everybody has already laughed?
It’s a fine line. In our work, we must communicate enough but not overdo it. We need to share what needs to be shared without driving people away. Communication is an art, which means that it requires constant attention and a focus on improvement.
Don’t let our culture’s proclivity for excessive institutional communication creep into your own, personal communication habits. This is easier said than done, because I don’t see companies and organizations stopping their over-communication anytime soon.
It’s probably only a matter of time before this helpful little sign is posted in the Detroit airport’s bathroom: “Please unzip pants before using toilet.”
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or call (402) 637-9300.
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