Talking is hard. Well, let me say it this way, communication is hard. With three daughters and my wife in the home, communication is always something we work on as a family. On top of that, I study communication and coaching as part of my profession so it is always top of mind.
I’m constantly helping clients figure out ways to improve communication, stop communication breakdowns, and understand the nuances of what they are communicating as a leader.
The Nuances of Communication
Several weeks ago, my daughter graduated from pre-school (I know, a big deal). As part of celebrating her, she received a helium-filled balloon. It had been tied to her bed for several weeks and I didn’t think anything of it.
When the balloon was beginning to deflate a bit I decided to untie it and intended to pop it and throw it away. I didn’t.
The balloon ended up floating around our hallway and bedrooms for a couple of days and it somehow found it’s way into my bedroom. When my wife and I were laying in bed, I became fascinated by the movement of the balloon.
It seemed to have a mind of its own!
It somehow escaped my daughter's room, then wandered into the hallway where it lowered itself just enough to get under the door jamb and into my room. Strange.Click To Tweet
As I lay in bed last night, I had a realization. The balloon was moving on the slightest of air currents and temperature differences in our room. It would float over to the corner, then move toward us, then float over the light and back up to the ceiling.
It dawned on me that the nuances of communication are very much like that balloon.
Communication Floats Around
Words, tone, and attitude come out in our communication. Like that balloon, these words, tone, and attitudes find their way to other places and people in our lives. This happens intentionally and unintentionally.
What was said in one situation finds its way to another situation or person, and seemingly in a mysterious way. Except it’s not all that mysterious. Words float around our home and workplaces resting in the hearts and minds of each one of us. It’s when we forget the string is no longer attached, that our words float to unexpected places.
This isn’t something we can’t 100% prevent. Our words, tone, and attitudes are always floating around. They are nuanced in remarkable ways. A little word here or tone their impacts people’s lives in positive and negative ways.
What we release seems to have a mind of its own, but the culture of your home and business will also determine how far those words float. Sometimes you can’t tie a string to your communication, but there are other ways to prevent words from getting to the wrong ears.
Communication Needs Barriers
As leaders in our homes and businesses, we determine the culture and the barriers of what is said. No matter how much that helium balloon floated around my bedroom, it never got through the closed office door.
In our home and businesses, we need to figure out what doors (figuratively and physically) need to stay closed so certain conversations don’t escape. Sometimes those doors are in our hearts. Other times, it’s gossip or conversations meant for only certain leaders (parents). Those words need barriers.
In a healthy home and culture, those doors are clearly defined and conversations don’t float their way down the hall and into someone else’s office or room. In a healthy home and culture, communication does find it’s way into the right places and to the right people.
Sometimes communication problems aren’t words finding their way to the wrong places. Sometimes things do need to be shared and need to be free to travel. The balloon needs to be untied.
Communication Needs Freedom
Yes, gossip is garbage. Lying is awful. Being manipulative is mean. But something potentially worse than any of those is not letting your words go. Gossip is usually the result of someone not having the courage to ask the right questions of the right people or to share their opinion candidly.
Lying is the often the result of fear. Think about your kids or when you were a kid. Kids lie because they don’t want to get in trouble. Manipulation is taking advantage of those who won’t speak up or stand up for themselves.
Communication is free yet we frequently pay a price because we fail to freely communicate.Click To Tweet
We all need to give one another the freedom to kindly and honestly communicate.
Sometimes those words need to be brought directly to the person and handed to them like a balloon on a string. Allowing them to hold on to the words and let it float over their lives and situation.
Other times, we need to be patient and let our words free. Allowing the nuances of the meaning in our words, tone, and attitude to settle into people’s hearts and minds. Our words and intentions will find a way.
When we communicate in a kind and honest way and we create proper barriers for certain communications, what we freely share will be priceless and life-changing.
As you think on how you communicate, I’d love you to pick one of these questions and share your thoughts. At a minimum, take a few moments to consider them.
- Where do you find yourself not setting your words free?
- Where do you find yourself having to apologize for your words, tone, and attitudes?
- What area of life can you make changes to the nuances of your words, tone, and attitude?