I hate communication.

communicationI hate “communication”, especially when used in the sentence, “we need more communication.”


Because the word “communication” doesn’t tell us what you want. When you ask for more communication, here’s what you really might want:

  1. Explanation: You may want a policy or a process explained in simpler terms, with clearer pictures.
  2. Information: You may want details of events put into the available organizational media more times.
  3. Affirmation: You may want people to talk to other people about what is working, to encourage each other.
  4. Persuasion: You may want more selling to happen, of your event or someone else’s.
  5. Illustration: You may want stories.
  6. Clarification: You may want more backstory, talking about why this process is being implemented or how this decision was made.
  7. Celebration: You may want more delight in the organization, less information and more balloons.
  8. Confession: You may want people to accept responsibility for what isn’t working.

These are just 8 of the many things that people mean when they say, “We need more communication.” And these 8 can, at times, conflict. Information isn’t explanation. Confession isn’t clarification. Some things take more words, some fewer. Some take more images, some none. Some take all channels, some shouldn’t be in more than one.

I could say more, of course. But I won’t. Sometimes “we need more communication” means “Just shut up.”

Jon Swanson has three degrees in communication.  It doesn’t help much.



7 responses to “I hate communication.

  1. Jon:

    One of my new practices has been to add an additional 1-2 minutes to every interaction I have at work to make sure I’m closing the emotional loop with my employees. Often, when the metaphorical crisis occurs at work, I find myself utilizing my talents to deal with the “Barbarians at the Gate” rather than the “both/and” approach of also being mindful of my emotional connection with my teammates. This means I can come across as abrupt and “cold”. There was a recent article in Harvard magazine about “warmth” being the first and most important interpersonal perception. Your categories of communication bring this to mind and the meta theme of connection. It reminds me of the quote I once heard (don’t know who said it) that carries a lot of wisdom: “When you are dead, others will not remember what you said, or even what you did, but they will always remember how they felt in your presence.”

  2. Amazing. I am printing a copy of this for my wall. My current title (among other things) includes “communications”. And I too have begun to hate that word.

  3. Luke, this is so wonderful. It’s pointing the the relational fabric which we can weave with communication tools…and tear, of course, as well.

  4. Chris. Now I’ll have to print a copy, too.

  5. And often people just want someone to listen to what things are like for them.

  6. You’re not just whistlin’ Dixie.
    Though, I’d say this could be applied to personal lives as well as work lives.

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