Mixed Messages   Leave a comment

English: To fish or not to fish... Mixed messa...

English: To fish or not to fish… Mixed messages at the side of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal near Union Bridge (No. 118). To see the sign in a geographic context click here http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1322342 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most challenging aspects of working with people is dealing with the mixed messages which a person may send.  If you have been involved in leadership at all, you know that this is a regular challenge.  Some times the mixed messages come from those who we are trying to lead.  Other times the mixed messages come from the leaders themselves.  No matter which direction the messages are flowing from, they are something requiring our attention.

As a parent, I have read many articles and heard many speeches on the importance of not sending mixed messages to my children.  The goal is try to remain consistent so that the child does not have to constantly play a guessing game and try to figure out which route the parent may go in a given situation.  Mixed messages easily confuse and frustrate the child.  This can also happen when both parents send mixed messages.  One parent will give the child one direction and the other parent may give a totally opposite direction.  The child quickly discovers which parent is most likely going to respond in the manner that the child wants and uses that to his/her benefit.

However, the mixed messages are not limited to child rearing.  It occurs many times in the workplace.  Employees get extremely frustrated when their supervisors are sending mixed messages.  They are never sure which is the acceptable way to handle a situation or complete a project.  They can easily reach the point of just wanting to give up because no matter what direction they go, they are told they are wrong.  Supervisors need to be clear and consistent in their communication.  They need to be very aware what messages they are communicating both verbally and non-verbally to their employees.  When an employee finds consistency in the message that is being received, the employee stands a higher chance of being successful.

Another very dramatic area of mixed messages happens in the church.  Members of a congregation may say that they want to welcome new people and help to grow the church but then they consistently communicate exactly the opposite when someone new arrives.  They want the person to quickly conform to “the acceptable manner of behavior.”  They want the person to either be or quickly become very similar to the way they are.  A new person is supposed to know the customs of the congregation and follow them so that waves are not made.  The new person is to dress the same, follow the behavior rules, and assimilate to the congregation.  So the members of the congregation may say that they want to welcome new people when in reality they want to welcome others who are like them.  This mixed message sending can occur in a verbal sense but more often it is through nonverbal that the message is communicated.  It can be as minor as asking someone to remove their hat when entering the building.  While that may be a preference of a person or the majority of the congregation, what is so abhorrent about wearing a cap indoors?  I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care if you are wearing a hat or not when you are worshiping.  God is just excited that you are here and worshiping with the Lord.

So if the parent wants to help the child grow, the supervisor wants an employee to succeed, or a church member wants to call another into relationship with the Lord, the mixed messages must end.  Determine what you truly want to see happen and then communicate consistently the message that will provide the greatest benefit towards that goal.  Most importantly, be more concerned about the people with whom you are dealing than you are about what makes you feel comfortable.


Posted October 9, 2012 by thoughtfulbeliever in Uncategorized

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