Listen. Be open to change.

You need to be able to “communicate with yourself” first

One of my old teachers used to say there is a reason you are born with two ears and one mouth, to listen more, and in the middle of communication there is U and I meaning both parties have to be involved. Organisations can create the environment but what are individuals signing up to.

Open communication is about encouraging and capturing the collective intelligence of those involved and developing a culture of accountability, where feedback constructively improves the performance of the team. It is not an open ticket to say whatever you want to whoever you want.  It is not the opportunity to blame others or play politics.

For open communication to be successful, you need to be able to “communicate with yourself” first, so that you understand and are aware of your feelings, attitudes and biases.  Once you know yourself better, then you will be able to communicate more effectively with others. You will be able to talk more openly and will come across as being more authentic.


In all communication there needs to be the You (U) and I, a speaker and a listener. The speaker needs to consciously speak in the language the receiver will understand.  This sounds obvious but how often have we all been confused by tech speak.  Only one message should be sent at once and not complicated by asides, conditions or unnecessary details. The speaker should also be open and genuine in the way they speak.  There needs to be congruence between how they feel inside and what is communicated to the outside. If not, the listener will detect this and perceive the speaker as being insincere or hear an ambiguous message.  Consider a stressed boss trying to communicate patience and calm.

To be authentic in how you communicate comes with a risk though. The speaker must be their true selves and open themselves up to the reactions of others.  The listener knows how they really feel, and they may be uncomfortable with this. It puts a demand on the listener as well.


For the listener it is about “active listening”. You are no longer a passive recipient but are actively engaged and aiming to understand the message in terms of the speaker’s meaning.  You need to dispel your thoughts, feelings and judgements.  The consequence of this may be that by putting yourself in their shoes, you run the risk of having your opinions changed. To actively listen means you may well have to reinterpret your own experiences, and this is where being able to “communicate with yourself” is so important.

Open communication sounds simple but may not be so easy in practice.  The culture needs to be supportive and non-judgemental and individuals need to be open and tolerant.  In these days of remote working, it will be interesting to see if our empathy and attitudes changes as we communicate more via screens and less in person.  Let’s hope not.