Lessons from the leadership course I took are applicable to everyday situations. Some lessons are abstract concepts that need time before they could be implemented; other lessons are ripe for the picking. One such lesson is the importance of communication skills.
Last week is what I'd call my "Miscommunications Week".
A family reunion was organized over lunch where everyone had to bring food. Two aunts volunteered to bring shrimp; to have variety with the food, I had to ask both of them to change the shrimp with something else and see who would agree. Since one aunt doesn't answer the phone, I communicated with one of her sons via SMS. Two days of asking if they could bring another food item yielded nothing. On the third day, I sent a more forceful message; at last, a response came: my aunt doesn't cook anything else but shrimp. So I told my cousin that it's okay; I then talked with the other aunt, who subsequently agreed to bring something else.
On the reunion day itself, not a shrimp arrived. My cousin did not bring anything to replace it. His excuse: since I had said that someone else was bringing shrimp, his mom didn't prepare anything anymore (however, I did say bring "something else"). He had effectively put the blame on me. Instead of reacting immediately, I probed a bit deeper... turned out that he wasn't really paying attention to my messages. It was a clear case of miscommunication.
One time, I was talking with a third aunt. She was sharing how she tells her staff about discipline and improving their lives. According to her, her staff thought that she was not sympathetic to their plight; she did not understand how difficult it is to rise above poverty. To prove that she understands where they're coming from, she made herself an example of someone who was able to improve her situation. In exasperation, she said that she couldn't understand why her staff still couldn't internalize what she was teaching them.
After listening to her story, I suggested that maybe what she was saying was right but HOW she was saying it to her staff wasn't. This may be why they're not receptive to what she was saying and why they keep taking a defensive stance. She claimed that she's sorry but she doesn't know how else to approach them; I hope she finds a better way, otherwise she won't be able to bring her message across. This, to me, is another case of miscommunication.
With these two anecdotes, I learned that miscommunication can concern the most mundane things (like the shrimp) or those that are potentially life-changing (like my aunt's teaching her staff to get themselves out of poverty). Also, the ultimate measure of success as a communicator is not in the message or in how that message was delivered; communication is successful only when one's message is accepted and understood properly by the intended audience. Hence, we need to be flexible about how we communicate. Just using a different approach might do the trick.