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Open communication is simply the sharing of information in an honest, dependable, and transparent manner. It occurs when information flows freely and openly. Thoughts and ideas are not just exchanged, they are built on. Sounds easy, right? But what happens when bad news needs to be shared? Suddenly it is not so easy, is it? The thought of having to have a difficult conversation for most of us is something that we really dread. And unfortunately, too often one party downplays, disguises, and even ignorestheir responsibility to speak up and communicate unsettling news that really does need to be shared.

Remember when two Boeing 737 jets collided on a runway in the Canary Islands, instantly igniting them both into flames? It is known as the worst accident in the history of civil aviation. What is worse, it could have been avoided. Although the junior copilot knew that his senior captain misunderstood important air-traffic control takeoff instructions, he did not feel “comfortable” challenging his captain! Similarly, the crash of NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia back in 2003 occurred because an engineer, who identified damage to the shuttle’s wing minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off, did not notify anyone of his discovery as he saw himself as “too low down” in his role at NASA to speak up.

Prefer a less tragic example? Do you recall office manager Michael Gray Scott from the popular American sitcom The Office? His off-the-chart need for acceptance and fear of rejection severely hindered his ability to convey even the most vital negative news. In one episode, Scott waits an entire month to notify an employee that the employee has been laid off, and then he attempts to deputize a less senior employee to convey the news.

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