When Difficult People Don’t Communicate

I am often reminded, as I go through my day, how many life learnings there are in each and every situation. I wish I could say that with all I teach, write about and know, I have eradicated difficult people from my own life; but alas, they do continue to exist for me, too!

Recently I had an experience with a business partner of mine on the topic of lack of communication. I had a verbal agreement with this firm – first lesson, get everything in writing! I used to have a joke with my staff in my corporate managerial life – TNO, “Trust no one,” I would tell them. Instead verify, cover yourself in writing and make sure you are dealing with someone who is truthful to you before you give your trust over to them.

Well, I broke my own rule this time and entered into an agreement without putting it all in writing. I thought I knew this firm and these people very well, I guess, and I didn’t hold fast to protect my firm.

Anyway, the point of this blog post is lack of communication. In this case, we were working closely together and I found out from a prospect in the market about a deal that my “partner” firm had closed – a deal that competes with my own efforts. When I sought answers, I found out that many things have been going on without my knowledge and without communication.

The situation made me take a step back – always remember to take the step back and ask, “What’s happening here? What’s my lesson?” – and review. I realized that there are a few things we all want to take into account when dealing with difficult people who don’t communicate –

1. Never assume – that no news IS no news. If you aren’t hearing something from someone and you think you should, reach out and contact them. I wish I had been keeping up with this firm, but I assumed all was well and just kept focusing on my own efforts, trying to be successful.

2. Communication is two-way – make sure you are communicating as well as you can. We have two partners in this mix and I was going overboard communicating to one, assuming he was then communicating to the other (there was a pre-existing relationship between their firms). I should have gone directly to the other firm on my own to make sure everything was clear.

3. Don’t default to email – when you thoughtfully confront someone by phone or in person, it makes it much harder for them to tell you an untruth. Email can make all of us into liars (inadvertently at times) because we are very selective about what we write and share.

4. But don’t rely on verbal conversations when something should be in writing. If you have a business deal, money loaned out, or anything where you may be at risk if the other person turns on you, make sure it is in writing. This has saved me many, many times and I just plumb ignored it this time!

5. Seek to understand – even when the other person is in the wrong in your eyes and didn’t communicate, explore what their reasoning was all about. The more you understand about the person and their motives, the more power you have.

6. And don’t be the poor communicator. Find ways to share openly when it makes sense to do so. Don’t spring surprises on those you want to have a relationship with unless you are ready for the consequences.

So, this was a painful lesson for me but also a reminder! Good luck this week with all of those non-communicators out there in your world!