“How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.” Andrew Grove
How often do you have absolute surety that you’ve clearly, specifically stated what it was you needed to share. That you’ve posed simple questions, offered explicit directions, clarified unambiguous expectations, and communicated everything that you needed to. And that any misunderstanding is therefore completely and totally the fault of the people who simply didn’t hear what you so carefully said.
Yet, did you ever notice how much more smoothly communication flows and how many fewer drops of the ball occur when those of us who are doing the speaking take fuller responsibility for the understanding on the part of others? If you don’t leave a meeting until everyone is in agreement as to who will do what, with whom, by when, the things that need to happen actually happen. If you don’t walk away from a delegation conversation until you’ve checked that the recipient can tell you exactly what’s expected of them and you’re both in agreement around how the project will flow, there are fewer mistakes and misunderstandings. When you do these things – when you take the time to make sure you are understood – work seems to go smoother and fewer important points are missed. I see it at home too. When I stop to check with my kids (or my spouse) to ensure they’ve understood what I’ve said, even when I’m already certain I’ve been as clear as one can, or should have to, be, I often hear their different perspective and understanding. Then I can take time to revisit the conversation and reach a shared understanding, resulting in fewer blow-ups in my home and more things that get done on time.
When we take responsibility not just for saying what it is we want to say, but also for making sure that we’re understood, work and life go easier and more smoothly.
How can you check more carefully for understanding? When will you start?
After you share something, even when you’re certain you’ve shared it specifically, carefully, and clearly, check to make sure that you’ve been understood, and if not, share again even more carefully, specifically, and clearly.