Communication is the lifeblood of business.
It's how we convey information, build relationships, forge agreements, make requests, deliver instructions, and get feedback. When it comes to communication between people, it’s surprising just how many of us are not actually very skilled in getting our message across exactly as we mean it.
Even more crazy is our tendency to blame the other person when he or she doesn’t understand our communication the way we mean it! It’s as if we expect them to read our minds.
Communication is the response you get
It doesn’t matter what you meant to say, the meaning comes from how the other person hears and responds to your communication.
You are responsible for getting your message to ‘land’ with the other person in the way you want it to be understood. It’s up to you to check and clarify your message if the listener has understood you completely or has the wrong end of the stick. Some people object to this but it’s impossible for the listener to know if they’ve got it right, they can only receive it as they receive it. You’re the only one who knows what the message is intended to be.
Here are 3 tips for improving your verbal communication.
1. Stick to facts and avoid diagnosis.
State the facts not your interpretation of the facts. For example, ‘You were late for work 3 times this week, your start time is 9am and I expect you to be here’, rather than, ‘Your timekeeping is abysmal, you’re so lazy’.
Sticking to facts helps because when you diagnose what’s wrong with the person rather than addressing the exact behaviour that’s problematic, the listener hears judgment and blame and will likely get defensive. They won’t hear that you expect them to be on time for work, they’ll hear an assault on them as a person. This doesn’t engender their cooperation or empower them to address the problem.
Addressing the facts with a calm, controlled attitude puts them in a position to look at the facts with you and decide what they’re going to do about it.
2. Check what they heard after you speak.
When you explain something to someone, check in afterwards what they understand you have said. You can pre-frame this with ‘It’s important to me that I’m clearly understood on this issue so would you mind telling me what you heard when I explained that?’
Listen to what the person says and thank them for the feedback. If there are any discrepancies between what they understand and what you meant, make the adjustments and check again. Keep going until you are both on the same page.
This kind of diligence in making sure your messages land correctly with others can prevent many misunderstandings, hurt feelings and wasted hours.
3. Communicate in terms of needs
At the core of any interaction, discussion or meeting there are people trying to get their needs met. Being aware of the needs you want to meet can help your communication become clear and easy to understand. Tell people what need you want to meet, eg. ‘I need efficiency as the top priority on this project’ or ‘I need understanding right now’.
Be honest of course, authentically expressing what you need helps create transparency and trust. It creates a human connection because we all share the same needs (just not all at the same time).
Good communication takes practice. Our world is set up in terms of right and wrong so we are conditioned to diagnose, judge and blame all the time. However, no-one likes to be on the receiving end of it, it causes us stress and fear which does not bring out the best of us.
We each prefer to be talked to fairly and respectfully because then we can calmly look at the issues raised and come up with solutions. And when we are clear on what needs we are being asked to meet, we can access many more inner resources that can target that need.
When you develop your communication it becomes more efficient and effective, making you easier to trust, clearer to understand and compelling to follow.
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