The Benefits of Over-Communicating

When in doubt about who’s doing what, OVER-COMMUNICATE. Ask questions. Air assumptions. Clarify, clarify, clarify.

Frequent, direct communication prevents you from assuming that your colleague is going to do something, only to find out when it’s too late that he thought you were responsible. (Remember the old saw that when you ASSUME it makes an ASS of U and ME? It’s true.) Over-communication of this kind also prevents you from stepping on your collaborator’s toes when you take action that you thought was obvious without discussing it with her first.

Explicit communication is particularly necessary when roles, responsibilities, and accountability are unclear. In partnership or collaboration, conflict often arises about who takes the lead, who makes decisions, who manages the process, and who is responsible for which tasks. In the absence of a clear project plan outlining responsibility and accountability in detail, team members should communicate frequently about their own actions and assumptions and stay curious about what other team members are doing and assuming. This should not be read as an invitation to inefficiency or over-sharing (emails should be short and direct, and TMI is still too much information). Often all it takes is asking a clarifying question or two, doing a quick check-in, or circulating an email after a meeting summarizing your understanding of what was decided.

Communication doesn’t eliminate all conflict, but it goes a long way to preventing conflict from damaging relationships.*  Confusion or disagreements are brought to light and can be resolved. This helps build trust and collaboration.


*The principle of over-communication works in marriage as well — it helps prevent taking your spouse for granted.