You can get your point across much better – with co-workers, clients, and family members – by making two simple adjustments to how you speak this week.
Just begin using these 2 phrases (below) and you’ll avoid a host of misunderstandings. Are you ready?
1. “Tell me about that.” Often, in our live communications, we’re so focused on what we want to get across, that we just want the other person to get to the point and shut up so we can speak our piece.
Instead, we need to be miners, digging for the meaning. Their meaning.
People present facts and data and ideas, but typically, that’s a projection – a layer – that covers up feeling and meaning and experience. In fact, we’re all dying to tell our stories, but sometimes we’re not even conscious of how important that is until someone opens the door for us by….well, asking for the story.
Communication is enriched when we seek the story behind the presentation.
Even as I type this, I am suddenly aware of a decades-long story stirring around in my heart, that almost nobody knows. People have seen snapshots, but I don’t tell the story well (and very few ever ask). A couple weeks ago, I met a new friend and we got deep into each others’ stories amazingly quickly. It was a conversation where we both felt “safe.” My default setting is to focus on facts and principles and specific events, and keep my stories private, which I think is true of a lot of people.
The best times I’ve had one-on-one with people is when they feel free to tell me their story. Don’t be in a rush to make a pitch or make a point. Make time to open your heart and allow others to open theirs.
2. “…and by that, I mean…” A great communicator is a conscious clarifier. One of the most common pitfalls that we all fall into is assuming that others understand what we mean, or that we all (by some deep magic!) have a shared definition of terms.
It’s not true. Your head is filled with your stuff, accumulated over years – and so is mine.
Let me illustrate. This past week, I saw a blog post where the writer used the word “feminist” in a particular way. When reading through the comments, however, many readers took issue with his usage (and implied definition) of the term feminist. They had an array of different ideas (hashtags, or “metadata”*) in their minds.
If a preacher uses the term, “original sin,” it needs to be explained – a congregation 0f 300 will have upwards of 300 pre-conceived ideas that may be quite different. A corporate leader can throw out the term “alignment” but his or her audience may be more familiar with their chiropractor or auto mechanic than the intended business meaning of the term. Give people the courtesy of a brief word cloud around terms so they know what you mean.
Great communicators “hashtag” their terms to clarify their meaning.
So, train yourself to actively explain your meaning to your audience. And by audience, I mean….everyone!
*Additional reading – Successful Mangement: Define Your Terms (you’ll never think of the term “metadata” in the same way after this one-minute video!)
How many misunderstandings have you experienced by not following these simple practices? (me – plenty!) What other tricks have you learned along the way to make your communications clearer (feel free to share in the comments – another blog post may come of it!)