My ten year old dog Hugo loves to sleep at the foot of the bed. If you’re a dog lover you understand this and will most likely keep reading. If you prefer cats or kids you may choose to stop reading – no offence taken. Here’s my point anyway: when I take one or two steps towards my cupboard to dress for a typical workday, Hugo opens one eye just enough not to disturb his euphoric upside-down state and immediately goes back into an almost hypnotic sleep that is almost impossible to rouse him from.

Yet if I make a slight move towards a sneaker or sock he springs to life like a puppy on red lemonade and bounds to the door crying in delicious anticipation of an early morning walk.

What is amazing to me is that he learnt the simple cues and meaning without words, without gestures or without rewards as a pup. And he has continued to learn just by observing. For example, if I’m working happily at my desk he will sit on my feet and wait patiently for a rub behind the ears and know he will get lots of love.

If I’m in a cranky mood he sits at the door watching me from afar – probably thinking now is not the time to ask for a treat… And yes, he’s right.

Timing is everything when it comes to communication. Knowing when to ask, what to ask, when to listen, when to talk, when to refrain, and when to go deeper. And of course, looking for the cues to support us in knowing timing is right is equally important. Sadly in today’s crazy busy world we don’t always have the luxury of getting our timing right as we are busy trying to keep our head above water and the competitors from creeping in on our turf. And in our busyness, we can often inadvertently miss the meaning behind subtle cues or gestures that may leave others feeling hurt, disappointed, embarrassed or frustrated. What we know is it’s not always the big behaviours or words that create confusion but rather the innuendos or suggestive behaviours that can equally contribute to miscommunication, but it’s hard to get it right all the time when the pressure is on.

Yet good leaders know they are being observed all the time and recognise that even the smallest gesture or signal can mean something that may be misinterpreted or taken too personally– so much depends on existing relationships and patterns of behaviour. Our responses are often predicated on past and current relationships and by trusting others. We have to work with what is real not perceived and this sometimes take courage to address it. But it is worth it.

By recognising the cues we give and clarifying the cues we receive, we can make communication more positive and help get the results we want. We have choices in how we communicate and therefore by making all cues deliberate and totally intentional, we can avoid the stress and cost of misunderstanding.

And if you try these things and you still don’t get the communication responses you want  –  don’t turn upside down like Hugo and go back to sleep, continue doing something about it!

Book for any of my popular programs for your staff such as Emotional Intelligence, Communication is Everyone’s Responsibility or Preparing for Leadership.

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About the author : Ricky Nowak

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