Communication that works vs. lack of communication

Article translated from the text “Negoziazione interculturale, comunicazione oltre le barriere culturali”, copyright FrancoAngeli Editore and Dr. Daniele Trevisani Business Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission.

The repercussions on company performance and personal relationships

Lack of communication is the condition that prevents people from coming into deep contact and sharing thoughts. Constructive communication instead aims to activate a meaningful exchange between two or more minds in order to “build something together”. The very essence of negotiation is an attempt to “build together,” driven by the need to “act with” to achieve goals that none of the parties – alone – is able to achieve (“act without“). The need to cooperate leads people and companies to have to exchange something, meet, and in a certain sense it forces them to communicate.

Many people on the planet experience incommunicability every day, and want to switch to more constructive communication, they want it with their heart, but they don’t know how to do it. There is literally a lack of operational tools – in the school and in the company – to systematically address the problem of incommunicability and divert energy towards constructive communication. We can immediately imagine what the effects of a negotiation meeting or a human relationship dominated by incommunicability are: conflict, misunderstanding, disagreement, anxiety, distance. Our aim is to understand which levers to act on to transform a possible incommunicability into a constructive encounter. The problem of incommunicability affects the most diverse spheres: we see it in the relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, between teachers and students, between friends, between colleagues, between companies, but – at a higher level – between religions, nations , different regions.

This “monster” also acts in the contact between companies in business relationships. Consumer societies, mass media, schools, even family education, feed it when they block the expression of emotions, and empathic listening, educating people to be more and more individualistic, closed, selfish, centered only on of himself. The result of growing up in an emotionally dead society creates an attitude of closure: stopping listening and understanding, stiffening, becoming unable to be flexible and adaptive, to be effective outside one’s “confined space“. The problem of inability to communicate is immediately connected to that of the performance and results of teamwork in companies. There is no advanced human performance in which it is possible to act alone. Wherever one operates with others, cultural micro-collisions occur. Even the loneliest of navigators must agree with the boat designers the equipment and facilities that he will want to have on board, and a micro-collision of cultures takes place (sailor vs. engineer), which can only be overcome with the search for a common intent and a common language. In individual sports, the athlete must communicate with their coach at various stages of preparation, also giving space to a cultural micro-collision (athlete vs. methodologist).

The same happens in every purchase negotiation, for example in the purchase of a training course, between the culture of a serious educator or trainer (gradual results and the result of a path of growth) and the culture of a purchasing office or a manager commercial (results immediately) The only possibility of cooperation is given by the search for a common goal. This requires “dismantling” diversity, recognizing them, getting them out of the back room of communication and bringing them into the spotlight. When communication is blocked, groups and relationships stop working and performance drops or is completely canceled, no common goal is reached.

To make communication work, at least two conditions are needed: (1) willingness to communicate (openness to dialogue) and (2) communication skills (communication skills). Both points are critical and their absence or gaps in one or more factors produce incommunicability. We can classify each communicative situation within a matrix, where we identify both the optimal communication conditions (high willingness to communicate and high skills), and the worst conditions (lack of willingness and openness to dialogue, and technical-methodological inability). In this matrix we can place a large part of human and professional interactions, but it represents only a start, a simple moment of initial reflection.

Simple matrix for the classification of communicative situations


Each group of people with a common purpose immediately becomes a team, a team, and takes on a new identity. There is the identity of subject A, the identity of subject B, and the identity of the team itself, consisting of A + B. Each team, as everyone knows, can perform well or badly. If we imagine a team of people (husband, wife) or managers (buyer, buyer) or officials (ambassadors, delegates), we can ask ourselves what is the “performance” of this team, understood as the group’s ability to build something, conclude a project, or make a dream come true. We immediately see that this team must communicate in order to function, it cannot act without communicating.

The phenomenon of “performance breakdown” caused by incommunicability is all the more evident the less there are escape routes. During a quarrel in the company or at home it is possible to physically abandon the situation, physically leave the setting, but from a boat in the open ocean, or from a spaceship, or from an airliner, it is not possible to physically exit. It is precisely in these extreme situations that the most serious repercussions of incommunicability have been noted, up to the death of entire crews, even for simple misunderstandings between the aircraft commander and the control tower, or internal quarrels between the crews that lead to serious distractions from the task. primary. Lack of communication produces death, wars and accidents are a clear manifestation of this. Relationship failures are just a more nuanced expression, but no less dramatic.

A separation or divorce (in the family) or the failure of an important contract (in the company) can be traumatic events. There are no wars that are not preceded by failures in relationships – by important signs of incommunicability – and therefore studying incommunicability means studying the precursors of conflict and success in human relationships.

Principle 1 – Relationship between incommunicability and performance Successful communication depends on:

  • the desire to initiate a dialogue (willingness to dialogue);
  • the will / ability to initiate a dialogue open to confrontation (openness to dialogue);
  • the communication skills (communication skills) of both interactors;
  • from the awareness of cultural differences between subjects;
  • the ability to minimize misunderstanding (language barriers) and misunderstanding (psychological barriers) between members of a group.

Exercise in detecting incommunicability signals Identify a relationship on a personal or business level and begin to perceive, perceive, become aware of the signs of incommunicability that the relationship brings out. The exercise requires the presence of a subject A (interviewer, analyst) and a subject B (interviewee, client). A will have to interview B trying to help him identify the signs, in the form of:

  • strange, incomprehensible or only partially understood behavior;
  • misunderstandings about the details;
  • differences in vision and underlying objectives;
  • dissonances and inconsistencies;
  • latent, creeping conflicts;
  • manifest, evident conflicts;
  • … other elements that may emerge from the analysis. Example of starting questions: “Tell me about something that has gone wrong with a colleague of yours, or with a client, lately”. Proceed with the interview and explore the factors that led to the case.
Negoziazione interculturale
intercultural negotiation

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