It was just a misunderstanding... that's not what I meant.... Have you heard those, or similar statements, recently? If you have, then you are in the midst of a breakdown in communication. The best leaders are excellent communicators, and they encourage a clear, effective exchange of information in their teams. Yet we often experience confusion and misinterpretation at work (and at home). What is going on? Quite simply, we don't work at stating our ideas explicitly. We take communication for granted, we get lazy, we get careless--and then, bad things happen. With all the communication tools at our disposal, we are more at risk than ever for miscommunication. Isn't it great that email has that "receive receipt" function? I think there is a "read receipt" message also. In using these, we are notified that the receiver of the message did, in fact, get the message from us. Of course, there is no "understand receipt" to insure that the receiver actually "got" what we were trying to say. When we are face-to-face, body language and changes in pace, tone and vocal inflection help us to determine if our message has been understood. In email, we lose these important visual and aural cues, making successful communication much more difficult. Misunderstandings become frequent, and additional emails meant to clarify can make the even situation worse. At this point, it would be appropriate to visit the classic (and often misquoted) study on communication by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus at UCLA. Dr. Mehrabian examined the process by which people decide whether they like one another. The results of his research tell us that how we say something is critically important to others' understanding of our message. And, as we noted above, this is precisely the factor that is lost in written communication. Therefore, the more we use such quick and easy means of communicating as email and text messaging, the more at risk we are of being misunderstood. Don't get me wrong; I love email. It is a very convenient, efficient, and effective method of sending and receiving information--but sometimes, it just isn't good enough. I also love looking someone in the eye and seeing that they "get it." Last week, I flew to San Francisco on short notice for this very reason—to make sure my meaning was received and understood clearly. I didn't want to fly cross-country for a four-hour meeting, but I did anyway, because it was that important. How often do you send an email or leave a voice mail when you would be better served by interacting face-to-face? It's tempting to hide behind email. But vital nuances can easily fall through the cracks. What about your people? I spoke to a friend about this the other day and he said this about his managers, "I tell them to call someone and they send an instant message. They are missing my entire point." Misunderstandings cost money. For that reason alone, we must work to eliminate them. Always remember the "understand receipt" function when you are communicating with someone--no matter what method you are using.