Accept responsibility for improving communication

Photo/Dennis Sparks

“[T]he day came when I made the decision that I would accept 100% responsibility for all misunderstandings in which I am involved. While there have been some painful, costly and frustrating lessons, I have learned something from every misunderstanding and it has made me a better communicator.” —Todd Smith

Leaders’ clarity not only adds intellectual precision to their work, it strengthens communication and improves relationships. “People who are indirect in the communication of their messages, Todd Smith writes, “tend to hint at things, give mixed messages and avoid getting to the point. It’s as if they expect people to be mind readers. What they don’t realize is that their failure to communicate effectively is undermining their ability to build relationships and advance their lives personally and professionally.”

As a way of improving the quality of his communication, Smith decided to accept 100 percent responsibility for all misunderstandings that arose in his life. “This decision to accept responsibility for all my miscommunications forced me to not only focus on clear communication, but it has also improved my ability to identify warning signs where there may be a breakdown in communication,” Smith said. He offers six simple but often neglected processes such as double-checking for clarity and confirming details in writing that minimize the likelihood of misunderstandings and their negative effects on trust within the organization.

Take a moment now to . . .

• identify a way in which you can improve the quality of your communication and an action you will take to that end; and

• consider an aspect of your work in addition to communication in which you are willing to do an experiment by acting as if you have 100 percent responsibility for the outcome. Determine a next action related to this experiment.

1 Response to “Accept responsibility for improving communication”


  1. 1 Kim Gadsdon April 29, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I know that I have strengthened some of my relationships by taking 100% responsibility for misunderstandings caused by yours truly. Doing so has had several positive outcomes for me. These include the establishment of a safe environment – in my classroom or the staff room – where others can feel safe to react in a similar way to blips in communication without fear of retribution or criticism. I believe that I have witnessed this type of environment create a useful byproduct: an increased spirit of team-work. We recognize that we are all human!
    Admitting culpability also gives me the chance to reflect on the possible causes and to take steps to prevent a recurrence, all the while alleviating my feelings of shame or guilt.
    Like Todd Smith, I remember the day I decided to own up to errors (quickly and completely) and I’ve seen my personal and professional relationships improve because of it. It is a liberating thing to do, and it encourages me to self-regulate a little better as well!


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