You've probably noticed that there are some problems with our communication system. We have to use words. They are often imprecise, awkward and unable to capture the essence of what we want to say.
Problem #1. Words mean different things to different folks. Even when we find what we consider to be adequate words, the listener hears something else.
Problem #2. It is difficult to capture feelings in words. And, equally difficult to remove feelings from words. What a conundrum.
Problem #3. Listeners may not be listening. There's a big difference between listening and hearing: only the former engages the mind. Many folks begin formulating their response after you say the first ten words.
Problem #4. The listener's prior experiences color your words for them. You are not alone. They are hearing every person who has ever spoken to them in your way or with your words as you speak. Therefore, they decide where to place their attention and what their focus will be.
Problem #5. And, we wonder why communication is difficult? It's enough to make you close your mouth forever!
Now, aside from those five problems, there are other considerations. Here are some simple and significant ways to increase your chances of being accurately heard and, hopefully, listened to. Consider the following questions:
1. Do you know what is important to your listener? Are they more interested in facts or feelings? Demonstrate your desire to communicate with them by leading with what is of greater interest to them.
2. Do you know if your listener is more interested in the details or the decision? Some folks are more comfortable with assessing and planning solutions than with making decisions and implementing them. To whom are you speaking? It is difficult to get a "decide and do" attitude from an "assess and solve" person. Similarly, it is more difficult to engage an "assessor" in a decision making conversation. They will usually want to keep perfecting their plan. Acknowledge this and affirm their skill before asking them to decide.
3. Is your listener results- or relationship-oriented? Spending any time at all with small talk may drive a results-oriented listener to distraction. Conversely, offering no small talk can push away a relationship-oriented person. Lead with their interest and then you can present your point, or your point-of-view.
4. How is your timing for the conversation you wish to have? If it could be in any way confrontative, be careful. Taking just five minutes to assess a situation prior to bringing up an issue can be very informative. Listen. Pick up the 'climate' around your proposed listener. As with the philosophy of 'pick your battles', so, it is wise to pick your times to increase the probability of being heard.
5. Are you clear about what you wish to say? Wading into a conversation without clarity can find you drowning in misunderstanding quickly. Think about the outcome you wish to create before you open your mouth. This will help you temper and tailor your approach to reach your desired goal.
A quick way to measure the appropriateness of your communication is to ask yourself, "Am I willing to be spoken to in the way I am about to speak?" If the answer is 'Yes', proceed with assurance. If the answer is 'No', be very thankful you took that minute to think.
Communication can be tricky, but most tricks can be mastered.
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, speaks, coaches & conducts seminars for entrepreneurs & professionals who want the motivation, strategies and inspiration to achieve, to lead and to live richly. Hear her weekly on http://www.WSRadio.com. Visit her website for more great info.