Bias in Business Communication and how to avoid them?

Do you want to make your storytelling to a high-powered audience fulfilling? 

Then, you need to practice understanding the communication biases of your audience.  

Well, we all have our communication biases. Self-awareness is the bread half-baked. 

It was 2 decades ago when I embarked on my journey of becoming a management consultant. I was to apprentice with our organization’s Senior Consultant. 

I thought my first workshop was tough. So, looked forward to asking my mentor for help with the flow of the program. 

I scheduled the meeting with him, structured my questions, and reached his place much in time. We got off to a quick friendly chat and not after too many minutes it was time for work. 

We worked on the subject at hand, creating the design of events for the upcoming seminar/workshop. I showed him my questions and stated in earnest how I was looking forward to his help in designing the workshop. 

He looked at me in complete surprise and asked me where the program flow that I had come up with was. I replied that, it was what I was looking for help on. 

Long story short – he wanted me to create the program flow and then ask him for inputs and that too on specific areas. 

Disappointed, I went away, but after an overnighter, I got back to him. True to his word he gave some brilliant inputs, and all ended well. We worked for several years after that and had a great relationship with many successful workshops under our belts. Until…

Until one day I had to work with the Executive Director, an equally brilliant guy. I promised myself to get this relationship off to a good start. 

I wanted to do it right. So, I ensured that I created a first draft of the program flow, identified the areas I needed help with before I approached the ED. 

Walking into the meeting I felt awfully pleased with myself for having done the prep. The ED took my design, read through it, heard my questions, looked up, and said, “If you’ve created everything on your own, why come to me for inputs?” You can imagine the range of emotions I felt at that time. 

But I did learn this – neither of them was wrong. They contributed immensely to my learning. Both had a leaning toward a particular way of communicating though. When I did not adapt to their personal styles, I had a tough time influencing them or proving the efficacy of my work. 

Some communication biases I’ve noticed as they all have their vice-versa & their key takeaways: –

Micro details Vs Big Picture

You go with the details, but the stakeholder wants to spend a large chunk of the time on the big picture – or vice versa

Tables Vs Graphs

You present your data in form of tables – the person wants it in the form of bar graphs

Global Vs Local

The audience may want to rely heavily on global best practices with reference to big brands, whereas your story refers to the local context. 

Short Term Vs Long term. 

The client is interested in short-term goals and low-hanging fruits. And, your communication is for longer-term sustainability.

It is imperative that you should do your research even before you get in the first meeting.  Watch an interview, connect with someone in common, etc to understand the communication style. At the same time be aware of the various biases and understand the implicit messages while you interact with your stakeholder. 

Adapt your communication and your stakeholders will understand

your hard work without you having to explicitly state it.

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