“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
This great quote by George Bernard Shaw highlights so much concerning the difficulties of communication. Every person is different and therefore might perceive communication differently than the other person(s) involved in the same communication. Communicating in Alliances and Partnerships is adding an additional layer of confusion to communication. Your conversation counterpart might see things from a completely different angle.
For example, have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone in conversation with you used an abbreviation and you stopped for just a split second to try to understand what the abbreviation meant, only to lose track and then, later on in the conversation, you realised that it meant something completely different? I saw the exact thing happen recently in a conversation with attendants from the pharmaceutical industry and the information technology industry.
The person from pharma was explaining why it was important to team up with a partner involved in the development of an API. I saw the person with the IT background nodding his head as if he completely understood. Yet a little while later into the conversation the IT person lost track, and I saw him raising his eyebrows trying to grapple with understanding. Interestingly, he was not comfortable enough to ask for clarification! As the independent outsider in the conversation I was ready to intervene and ask the “dumb” question. Of course, the woman from pharma was happy to clarify that an API for her was an “active pharmaceutical ingredient,” whereas the IT person explained that for him an API was an “application programming interface.”
It’s an innocent example that highlights the illusion of communication. In this case no harm was done, and as the atmosphere during the conversation was relaxed we all had a laugh about this confusion of terminology!
In every alliance or partnership, communication should be a point of constant attention. That’s what I highlight in my article “The Illusion of Communication” that was recently published in the Q2-2022 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals’ magazine. In the article I build the case for heightened attention for communication in Alliances and Partnerships using several examples of (anonymised) communication challenges that I have witnessed in my coaching practice.