Communicating today seems so much easier than it used to be. Think about it. We still have snail mail, fax, and telephone. And … we have skype, scans, snapchat, texting, voicemail, video conferencing and more. These are all tools that enable us to convey information or thoughts to others. This is communicating – in the sense of transferring information from one place to another. However, time and again we are reminded that this does not automatically translate to effective communication.
In working within organizations, it is often that just communicating vs. effectively communicating becomes the culprit contributing to the gap between the dream of achievement and the reality of performance.
After giving directions or explanations of some important issue, the frequently asked question from one person to another is … “do you have any questions?”. Even if not asked directly, it is anticipated that we will ask if we don’t understand. How many times do we hear or even say the likes of … “No. I understand”. But do we? As the listener, how do we know that what we understand is what the speaker wants us to understand? And as the communicator, how do we know that we have successfully conveyed what is so clear in our head? The fact is that we just don’t!
Some of us take pride in our belief that we are truly good listeners. And for the sake of argument, let’s put everyone in this category. Yet even being a good listener, the problems arise when we set off to do something based on the communication received without determining that what we understood is aligned with what the communicator intended. The downside of this is the task is done incorrectly thus creating expensive re-work and waste to the organization. This is in addition to the unnecessary frustration for all. Unfortunately this comes to the forefront as an issue in a large portion of my engagements as a coach.
What is the cure? How do we turn communication into effective communication? Actually it’s quite straight-forward and simple. All it requires is that the one doing the communicating accepts that it is their responsibility to convey the concept, instructions, or ideas and confirm that they are understood as intended. This can happen in one of two ways:
- The speaker/communicator asks their listener(s) to repeat back what they have understood
- The listener repeats what they understood to have been conveyed by the speaker/communicator.
It makes no difference who asks … it’s the asking that creates the magic. Effective communication is NOT about talking. It’s what we take away from what we’ve heard that makes all the difference. Why not try it in your organization at the next opportunity … today … tomorrow. I expect it will make a positive difference. A simple approach for simply positive results!