Cracking the Communication Code

by Rebecca Buell | Mar 15, 2021

Remember those “secret decoder” prizes that used to come packed in purchases of Cracker Jacks or various childhood cereals?  Often buried within a box of sugary treats was a bookmark with a tinted plastic film that could illuminate hidden messages printed on the back of the box. Designed to crack the code, they often led us to find buried treasure or revealed the punch line of a riddle.

Do you ever wish as an adult you had a magic decoder glasses in relationships? Whether at work, in the community, with family or with a friend, I bet there are times we all wish we could see more clearly to unveil the punch line, real meaning, or hidden intent of an interaction.

Identifying DISC tendencies helps with this. At Our Community Listens, a part of our core class is teaching participants to recognize their own behavioral traits because knowing self is the first step to understanding and connecting with others.

We teach this by facilitating workshops across the country. So, you'd think that means our team gets it right, right? Not quite...You see, we, too, are still learning and working on getting better at it individually and collectively every day.

This was highlighted for me yesterday in a meeting with one of our best facilitators and key leaders. She talked about how she sometimes relies on a teammate to be her “translator,” her “secret decoder glasses” with other teammates who have behavioral tendencies different that her own. As a person of inspiration, innovation, and influence, sometimes she’s stymied by the fantastically gifted, detail-oriented team members among us. So, she’s worked a system with a person who knows her well to be her sounding board and help her prepare messages in methods more people will most clearly understand. Doing this increases effectiveness and builds trust person-to-person when differences could potentially and unintentionally divide.

See? We're still learning and we work at it every day. We're not alone. An article published by Harvard Business Review discusses that humans are all human, meaning we're all exactly the same in most easily liking and trusting people who are most like us. In other words, we all trust ourselves, then, and are a bit more wary of people who are different. It's natural, but we don't have to stay that way.

Further research shows that we all tend to “morally elevate people like [ourselves]” meaning that if we think we make judgements objectively, we need to think again. “Liking was the key effect,” the researchers found. “How much we like somebody, as determined by either their similarities to us or even just how frequently we see them, influences how we judge them morally.”

So, how to build trust among a team? Finding someone different from you to serve as a sounding board can help with translating messages in ways others can understand. Understanding builds connection and trust, and those things lead to cohesive teams.

In addition, finding common threads to highlight similarities coupled with more opportunities for cross-functional workgroups and conversations helps build exposure and relational capital that fosters trust development, even when people aren't exactly alike.

Unfortunately, unlike the riddle on the back of cereal boxes, there are no magical glasses to decode messages and aid us in understanding people with different D-I-S-C behavioral tendencies. But through intentional communication, connection, and cross-functional collaboration, we can help each other crack the code to building cohesive, high-functioning teams.

Learning daily alongside you,

Rebecca