Why Communication is So Hard

AdVance Leadership » Why Communication is So Hard

Welcome to Friday 411, issue 070. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you will unravel the complexities of communication.


1 Insight

Leaders often struggle with why effective communication is so difficult. Communication is a layered complex competence that requires varying types of development.


Recently, we spent a day training a group of leaders in communication. That evening, we were scheduled to meet for dinner at a restaurant. Not only did the two of us go to the wrong restaurant (thirty minutes out of the way), but we also sent several others to the wrong place.

How do two people who have built a career in communication and just spent a day training others in communication, experience such a breakdown in communication?

The truth is, we have refined our Competence of delivering instructional communication. (Competence is one of the seven traits that solve 95% of leadership issues.) Our skill of paying detailed attention to written instruction from others needs work.

Every time you communicate, you use different methodstypes, and relationships in your communication. Each one of these demands its own distinct development.

Methods of Communication

The method consists of the tool you use to communicate. Common methods include (but are not limited to):


Video conferencing

Phone calls

Text messaging


Group chat


Before 2020, you may not have been proficient in video conferencing. Then a global pandemic forced you to upgrade your skills and learn how to talk to others through a screen.

Those first few months of learning provided epic laughs that made the rounds on the internet—pantless encounters, shared bathroom breaks, disruptive kids and pets, and even a boss who led the meeting as a potato.

Which of these methods of communication do you excel in? Which of these need work?

Types of Communication

The type of communication focuses on what you’re trying to accomplish through the communication. Common types of communication are:











We spoke at a conference where the head of the company took the stage to address the group. We commented to each another what an impressive speaker he was. He spoke with such eloquence and clarity, we could feel the inspirational energy rise in the room.

A few days later, we received an email from this same man containing follow-up information. We read the email several times, passing it back and forth between each other. As hard as we tried, we could not understand what he was telling us. It took another member of his team to interpret the email for us. This inspirational speaker struggled to convey basic instruction.

Which of these types of communication do you excel in? Which of these need work?

Relationships in Communication

Every piece of communication is sent to people with whom you have some kind of relationship. Group settings create even more complexities because the types of relationships can vary within an audience. Some of those relationships are:


Direct Reports


Family Members


Trusted people

Distrusted people

Different relationships provoke different emotions, which effect our ability to communicate.

Someone who has no trouble interacting with peers may allow fear and anxiety to overtake them when approaching an intimidating supervisor. A leader who is known for providing constructive criticism to employees may be so overwhelmed with affection for a spouse that they couldn’t possibly suggest change. Some people can’t wait to get on an airplane so they can get to know their neighbor. Others can’t pull out their book or pop in the headphones quickly enough.

Which of these types of relationships do you excel in? Which of these need work?

Complex Communications

When it comes to developing communication skills, methods, types, and relationships each require their own separate focus. To further complicate this Competence development, methods, types, and relationships are constantly shifting. For example,

You use a face-to-face meeting with a group of people to inspire them with a new vision. A few minutes later, you use a phone conversation with a peer to inform them of decisions in a recent meeting. Soon after, you text a direct report to delegate an assignment.

All three of these instances require different competencies in communication. You might be a great communicator when you stand in front of a group to inspire them and terrible when you’re delegating a task to a Direct Report.


1 Action

Unravel your own communication skills. Which method, type, and/or relationship do you need to develop?


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