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Episode 060 – Seekardo Short – Using better communication to overcome misunderstanding in the workplace, building trust through Zoom, avoiding ‘Chinese Whispers’, learning how to influence coworkers, dealing with unexpected reactions and more

Miscommunication in the workplace can turn a simple solvable problem into a complex web of political ‘Chinese Whispers’. 

Which can take serious intervention to put right. In the eyes of a company this requires – energy and resource directed towards an avoidable problem. 

However, the reason supervisors/managers/directors need to intervene is because there can often be irreversible consequences such as – people falling out with each other, lapse in productivity,  people leaving the team, conflict, veering away from the collective goal and more.

In this episode Dr Ro and Harminder focus on improving your communication skills in the workplace in order to avoid miscommunication in the first place.


  • Using better communication to overcome misunderstanding
  • How to build trust with co-workers remotely. For example if using Zoom Video
  • Alternative channels to ensure effective communication
  • Learning the best way to influence co-workers
  • Dealing with harsh or unexpected reactions when initiating communication or resolving miscommunication

And as always, much more. Go ahead and listen to this weeks episode.

Harms: Hello it’s Harms here and welcome to another episode of the Seekardo show. 

Today we are doing a Seekardo short. 

What we’re covering today is communication in your career and focusing on how to improve your communication within your career, but dealing with one of the most common challenge

That is focused on overcoming and dealing with misunderstandings and as you know, misunderstandings can start as a small seed then turning to Chinese whispers and then by the end of it you’ve got a giant oak tree of misunderstanding which no one knows where it started knows and it leaves the whole team, potentially the company where people fall out. 

People losing sight of what the true issue was in the first place. 

Ro how do we overcome a misunderstanding within the career place within the workplace around this topic of communication?

Dr Ro: Interestingly enough and I experienced it in the last 24-hour period so it is one of those subjects which is close to me as well.

I think we have to go back to the fact that right now we’re in an interesting place. It happens in offices, you get the coffee machine conversations , the smokers outside having their conversations. 

Now you put people in their separate houses with WhatsApp groups and zoom calls, all that stuff you could be talking to five people in your team without realising that three of them have got another separate conversation happening in another group. 

I think the important factor here is most miscommunication is really down to people’s misunderstanding clouded by their beliefs, their emotional reaction to something, something they felt personally because it related to an experience in their past. 

I think it’s happening quite a lot the moment I think zoom is a great tool, but I’ve been to meetings where people have been off-camera for example, that pisses me off, so I’ve asked people to come onto camera. I think the key thing here is if you’re feeling it in the workplace you’ve got to decide, are you happy just to let it become part of the culture? 

Is it your role in that group to try and change that culture or do you need to go to the head of that team, managing director, to say, look, I’m concerned this is happening, what can we do to change the culture? 

You and I met, there is 20 years between us and we communicate on a daily basis. In your business it’s about communication, we’re all trying to evolve.

Harms:  We are aiming to cover three or four points, which you can directly use to help you improve this misunderstanding that occurs which fundamentally can be solved by communicating effectively and with impact. 

Let’s kick off with the first point.

I was reading some studies recently and had some really high level business people say to me, this is how they feel as well when they’re on the zoom video call and something you mentioned to me as well, when dealing with groups of people on a video call. 

But where a misunderstanding can occur is when certain people one don’t have the video on and two the video clarity is distorted or the sound quality is distorted here. 

So what this article determined was the greater the clarity of video and audio the more the person will trust you.

Dr Ro: The CWI system that we have you, them and the environment. 

When we run the online events we talk about the setting, the clarity, the camera, the sound because if that’s not right people will say, I didn’t understand what you meant.

Harms: From a communication perspective and you having dealt with thousands of people on a one to one audience base level how is trust built just through having a clearer video quality?

Dr Ro: If I was on stage as an example, in front of that group or person and I’m looking at them and at a big event speakers aren’t supposed to go down into the audience where as I used to say how do I get off the stage? 

As I’d go down and walk in the audience and look at them in a way although the camera might be on you when you’re this close you feel that person. On a camera it’s crazy, we have guests come on to some of the training that we do, and sometimes they don’t look at the camera or it’s a bit fuzzy. 

The audience are looking and squinting and it’s all about the eyes. When somebody says something and they mean it we know the eyes can go straight, left, right, down depending on where you are accessing.

Our eyes are a great way to detect the truth.

Imagine being on camera when they can’t quite see your eyes. It’s a bit fuzzy that trust is diminished because clarity equals power for a lot of us. 

The power to be able to understand somebody.

Harms: Where the misunderstanding can occur is in a career, in the workplace imagine you’re on a call with a manager and you are receiving constructive feedback or criticism or somebody is flaring up on the call but you can’t see the video. 

So imagine receiving constructive criticism and you can’t see somebody’s face, what do they mean by this? 

Is there sincerity in the constructive feedback?

Dr Ro: Is it with a snide reaction? Is it actually done playfully? 

As I said I was at a board meeting a couple weeks back and I asked for one of the board members to come onto the camera and I don’t think anyone asked that question before. 

Doesn’t say he’s a bad person, I just wanted to see his face as he was about to present some information and so I can’t see why someone would not want to be seen.

Or to fundamentally remove or at least reduce the risk of misunderstanding, it’s critical.

Particularly at that level. I do get sometimes when people are in their pyjamas and something more personal, but this is a full board meeting.

Harms: We’re talking about it in a career, work professional settings, a place where communication is key in order to get closer to your goal.

Dr Ro: Here you are as a young guy and you need to interview somebody. 

Did it help you just to speak to them on the phone or did you need to see them face-to-face?

Harms: Had to be face to face. 

As an interviewer we watched them for the moment they entered the gates. How do they get out of the car? How easy do they understand where the building is?

It is this level of detail. 

Are they getting changed in the car park? But once they get in front of you the key is the eyes, the expressions. 

We asked some difficult questions. 

Tell us a time where you made an error, a mistake and how have you overcome that in a high-pressure situation? We need to see the body change, we need to see them go into that place, we need to see if they’re making it up or are they being genuinely true?

Dr Ro: This in itself is an immediate filter to a better communicating team. 

The challenge you’ve got is when a team comes together and they haven’t been filtered at that level. You’re actually qualifying people based on their behaviour, their values and their level of integrity at the start. 

Now you’ve got people trying to protect themselves in the company, we’re talking about an existing situation and also what you’ve got is people starting to react. This whole Chinese whisper thing and it happened to me recently. 

I was seeking some information about a set of data to do with performance within this company and it created a reaction in the people information was being sought from. That reaction was like you are judging us but I just wanted to understand. 

For example, if you’re in sales and you want to get results in business and you’re working with the sales team and you do something and that sales need to perform and you go why is it I’m not getting consistent results? 

Yes, it could be me, the salesperson bit also could be the team following up. What if I’m not doing something right to set things up for that team? I was seeking information thinking okay could be me, could be them or a combination of both, but the reaction was, hey, there’s a judgement here on us and that’s a classic example of misunderstanding and miscommunication and that’s because the people reacting may have been judged in the past. 

A big lesson to this if you are at a senior level ask yourself the question, is it possible that the people in my team are reacting because they’ve had some challenges?

Their self-esteem has been knocked or had a bad experience and so there’s something in you or someone in the team bringing out the reaction to it and, of course we react. If you are younger you tend to react if you’re older you go, okay I’ve been there and then that reaction creates a stir and then you get Chinese whispers and different Facebook groups and people getting angry.

Harms: If we link this to Communicating with Impact system this is the category of them.

As now you’re saying something could be you or it could be you receiving it. Let’s assume you are communicating to someone, and they are then reacting. It’s conscious to be aware that this falls into the category of them. 

The first area of Communicating with Impact system is you. You’ve got to be conscious of how you deliver that message, what is your outcome?

Dr Ro: How is your mindset?

Harms: Timing, there’s a lot of elements in the way you deliver. 

Let’s assume you now deliver that message the reaction is now coming from them and that’s the key thing to underline.

Dr Ro: What if you haven’t got the right connection to start with? 

Now you’re trying to get someone in the team or someone else in the team to get them to do something, but they haven’t connected and so there’s an immediate barrier. I think that is the slight mistake that is probably happening at the moment. 

People are using zoom and WhatsApp and I do that a lot and if you haven’t created a connection to start with, a text can be misinterpreted. 

One good thing about voice messages is that you can use the tonality, you can soften it, you can be apologetic, but at the same time be firm but texts, no. I got a text and it was quite direct from someone kicking back and it read to me like a defensive emotional reaction.

Harms: Depending on the message that’s getting put forward go with the person first, then video call in a hierarchy, then a phone call, then a voice note and then text last. 

A text can be misinterpreted in so many different ways.

Dr Ro: I manage my communication with people through those mediums and when you’re someone in a lot of contact in a day to pick up and speak to everybody that’s not going to happen, that’s really difficult. 

You and I do that, we’re so connected but some of you can’t do that. 

They actually need that reassurance. They know that you’re there because they need connection and then connection is a huge basic need. Whereas someone might say I don’t need it this way, I’ll catch up with you next week. 

Some people prioritise connection on the basis that the rule is I have to speak to that person all the time. 

My mum for example really wants to speak to me whereas I could happily go back and forth just texting her but she wants to have that conversation with me and that’s her basic value and the rules she has attached to that form of communication.

That is a powerful element to the whole system, which is what are the rules attached to communication?

Do you have to be validated all the time by somebody telling you how good you are? 

By calling you, texting you, emailing you and that’s really down to you, then not the other person because you’re demanding of them to do this, this and this for me to feel good.

Harms: If you’re in a career or managerial position be superconscious of this because maybe one or two people in your team in the them section who need that. If they are messaging you and you’re not responding and you know that to keep the connection going with them you’ve got to just acknowledge their message.

Dr Ro: That lack of acknowledgement then is chinese whispers and gets misinterpreted.

Harms: Some of the best managers and the best communicators out there understand the needs of their team and how to talk to them, how to communicate with them.

Let’s say people have reacted. 

We understand this and the reaction is now in full flow. 

How can we overcome this now?

Dr Ro: The first thing is press pause and reaffirm. 

You can bring a group meeting together and get clarity. An open book everyone says hands up here I want to apologise there may be some misunderstanding and then we go back to centre of gravity. 

So what is it you need to hear from me? 

The reaffirming process is a really good way to press pause and stop the fire spreading any more. Not to say the emotions aren’t there, not to say the other person doesn’t suddenly still have the same connection with past pain, and it doesn’t mean say you might ever be the best friends but least if you press the pause get clarity, apologies are needed fine this is what I meant and now we can move forward. 

Otherwise it just keeps spreading like wildfire.

Harms: How do we draw a line in the sand after that conversation with a final tip?

Dr Ro: Go back to the very first area which is you and preparation which is really to do with the focus now that is focusing on what is the outcome. Look at your messages. 

Maybe the message you’re delivering are the wrong messages or there’s something in the message that is aggravating people. 

Too many messages or they’re just the wrong messages for this person. 

That’s the best thing to do, refocus, look at outcome messages and re-deliver back into that space.

Harms:The purpose of this is to move in the right direction as a group, collective for the department’s goals, to keep the project moving forward.

Dr Ro: What would you do now with the insight you’ve had? How would you tackle it?

Harms: What we’ve highlighted today is I would just re-loop back and literally go step-by-step but keep it extremely simple. 

The first thing to understand within the communication system is the first place to look is you. Looking at you, there’s different components within that but the number one thing to do is go back to step one and do whatever you can to get face-to-face with a person who can help you solve this and have a conversation with them.

Dr Ro: With authenticity, which is another element of the communication system.

Harms: Talk about how you feel in that situation. 

Get some clarity and then as part of that meeting have it defined what’s the plan moving forward. Do certain people need to be spoken to? 

Make the decision together, but if you are young and unsure we just laid the steps there.

Dr Ro: If you’re senior or a manager a great thing to do is just set up an open space roundtable conversations and say we’re going to have a non-judgemental forum where everybody gets a chance to talk about what’s happening in our communication and what you think we need to do to improve it.

Harms: We have covered zoom, video, how that builds trust, people’s reaction and understanding that is their reaction.

Thirdly, reaffirming gain clarity which then nicely ties into creating a plan, a group plan in a way to communicate going forward within the job and the career in the workplace, all with the aim to overcome misunderstanding in the workplace in your career, in your jobs so that the communication is clean, open, honest and authentic. 

That’s myself and Ro signing off. We shall see you in the next episode.


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