“It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.”
“But I clearly told them what I needed from them,” my client said the other day. “I can’t believe they didn’t listen.”
How often have you heard someone share something like this with you. Maybe they’re talking about a conversation they had with you or maybe they’re complaining about someone else, but so often we are blown away by other people’s inability to understand or listen to us.
The problem may very well lie within us.
When I stop and remember Karl Popper’s quote, it always gives me pause. I generally think I’m being so clear when I speak, and I can get annoyed when what I’ve said is misinterpreted. But, again, the problem may very well lie within me.
When I remember that everything I say can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted, it helps me to slow down and get a bit clearer, or at least check for agreement and understanding in the conversation. When I remember that everything I say is filtered through my perspective and everything you hear is filtered through your (different) perspective, it helps me blame you less and work harder to get on the same side of the issue with you, so that we can be more aligned, and you can maybe understand me better.
If it is impossible for me to speak in such a way that I cannot be misunderstood, that also implies that I could easily – and surely – be misunderstanding you. And when we approach conversations – especially important or difficult conversations – in this way, we increase the odds that we will have a shared understanding and that we will arrive at a more powerful, effective conclusion AND a stronger relationship.
Seems worth it to me.
How have you learned to speak more clearly and to check for common understanding?
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If you want more clarity and agreement in your conversations, contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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