Why Effective Communication is Important.

Communication is a process through which information is exchanged between individuals or a group of individuals. In order for communication to be effective the thoughts, intentions and objectives must be conveyed in as accurate, clear and concise manner as possible. Communication can be considered effective or successful only when both the sender and the receiver understand the information exchanged in a like manner.

I recall an instance a few years back when an assistant coach of mine decided he wanted to be the head coach.  His message to me was that he wanted to be head coach of "a" team. What he really wanted was to be the head coach of  "our" team.  I knew, or at least strongly suspected, what his true intentions were but responded to the information he actually conveyed and offered to help find him a team for which he could be head coach.  His entire message was open to misinterpretation due to his choice of a single word.  There was an error in his message that led to frustration, distrust and relative disaster in terms of a team being split up.

When I first began coaching the Internet did not exist. When organizing a team there would be a lot of preliminary telephoning to relay information.  I learned to provide clear concise information on a limited basis when speaking on the phone.  I then followed up with written information passed along in a group setting. If the information was distributed to players instead of parents, I required a parental signature on a perforated piece attached to the paper holding the information be returned to me.  It was a bit cumbersome process on the whole, but effective and meaningful nonetheless.

With the advent of email, communication became much more efficient and timely.  I asked for "read receipts" and if I did not get one I followed up with a phone call. In effect, I trained non-responsive parents and players to respond as I wished them to insuring the messages I sent were at least received.

In a strange twist of fate the very tool that sped up effective communication has now come to hinder the process. There are available Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Hula and any number of other social media sites that can be used to convey information between parties. Most of these medias are limited in some fashion.  For example, 140 characters maximum on Twitter.

In recent months one of my sons was looking for a team to play for this spring.  Coincidentally, a number of players from a team he has guest played for in the past reached out to him via Twitter at about the same time.  I encouraged my son to explore the opportunity with the caveat of determining costs before fully accepting any offer to play.  It seems the teams head coach then began communicating directly with my son via Twitter as well.  Mutual interest was expressed in continuing to explore the possibility of my son joining the team.

This process began to drag on and despite both the coach and team manager having my email address from previous correspondence neither communicated directly with me by this means. I did initiate contact with both the coach and team manager in an attempt to establish written lines of communication. After a couple of months I had still not received written notification of actual final costs involved with my son joining the team.  Everything received concerning financial and time obligations came to me by third party either through my son or parents of other prospective players.  And the numbers I did finally begin to receive from the coach and or team mangager varied substantially from those provided by third parties.   It was only after declining the opportunity to join the team that more effective written communication began to take place.

There are many lessons to be learned from this most recent debacle.

1) Do not assume anything.  I expected to be communicated with in written form. That is, I expected an exchange of information via email.  The head coach, team manager, players and parents of this team evidently use Twitter as a primary means to communicate.  I did not know this. No one associated with the team "followed" me or asked me to "follow" them on Twitter. 

2) Know what you want to communicate.  I asked for specific and final costs for participating.  What I received were wide ranging estimates.  To date, I still do not know what the final costs owed to club / team would have been.

3) Know your audience and how to effectively communicate to them.  I asked for specific information to be provided in a written format (email).  Email has been the established means of communication between the head coach, the team administrator and myself for several years now.  This is how we communicated concerning league matters, directions and acquiring guest players. For whatever reason that form of communication suffered a serious breakdown.

4) Listen (or comprehend what is written) to the reply.   I looked for clues that my message had been comprehended. I saw nebulous signs of comprehension in the fact general estimates were provided without explanation as to why specifics were not given.  I tried again to communicate my desire and need for full disclosure of costs associated with participating in the club and on the team to no avail. Again, to this date I still do not know what these might have been.

5) Effective communication results in an agreement being reached that information shared has been received and understood.  The agreement might come in part or in whole. There might be full agreement and compliance or there might exist a general understanding or even a consensus understanding with specific details yet to be worked out. In these cases, effective communication might well result in a compromise.

6) Even ineffective communication, or no communication at all, will result in an agreement be it stated or implied. As it pertains to the situation being discussed here, because the two parties involved were unable to effectively communicate with one another an opportunity was lost and a friendship damaged, perhaps irreparably so.  This was the agreement reached because we could not find common ground in communicating with one another. I insisted on written communication so as to have a record.  There was reluctance to convey specific information to me which led to suspicions arising on my part.  The resulting impasse is the agreement by default that was reached.

Guidelines for Effective Communication

* Know who your target audience is and how they best receive or are most receptive to receiving information.

* Establish clear guidelines for how exchanges of information will be communicated.

* Know what you wish to communicate and be accurate, clear and concise in doing so.

* Communicate with clear and intended purpose. Stay focused on the information or the message you wish to convey.

* Know how to best communicate the desired information to your intended audience.

* Be proactive, or at least prompt, in communicating.

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