Assumptions can quickly derail a smooth exchange of information. Most of our assumptions are hidden from ourselves; we often take for granted that people come from the same worldview, same values, etc., so we plow ahead assuming agreement is given. If there are gaps in our communication, we assume the listener will fill them in with the obvious, correct information.
Fill in the blanks? Yes. Obvious, correct information? Not so much. After all, some of us have intensely creative imaginations! And, we always believe our assumptions to be true. Before sharing information or even forming an opinion about something, I try to discover my hidden assumptions by asking myself questions:
• First, does this need to be communicated? If so, who needs to know? Who needs to share it?
• Who will this communication impact, both directly and indirectly? What might be the response?
• Is this best handled one-on-one? Or shared? Spoken? Written? Now? If not now, when?
• Who do I need to engage for input, feedback or verification? Am I willing to be changed by what I hear?
• Is it appropriate to simply make an announcement? What supporting information needs to be shared so that the context of the announcement is understood?
• Can I be completely transparent, or is there an appropriate need for confidentiality? If confidentiality is needed, would explaining why be helpful?
• Am I honestly curious about another’s point of view?
• Can I clear up misinformation without taking false statements personally?
• Am I able to stand behind my word?
Choosing words carefully is important, but perhaps the most important part of communication is listening. Nothing can substitute for a clear, non-judging, gentle, receptive presence. I’m deeply grateful when I find myself with such a listener. My heart opens and true communion occurs, and isn’t that the core, and ultimate purpose of, “communication” and “community”?
Applying this approach organizationally takes patience, planning and practice. Our communications circle at Unity Worldwide Ministries has the intention and passion for positive, frequent and meaningful communication with you. With your input and feedback, we learn where and how we can be of utmost service and support. Our Conversations with Unity Leaders have been very helpful to this end. We can host up to 200 people, so please help the staff and leadership serve you by participating in these calls. Look for a schedule of dates, times and topics on our Conversations With Unity Leaders page or in The Path and join the ongoing conversation!