How well do you understand other people and how clearly do you believe you are being understood?
We often believe we have clarity in communication only to find out further down the line that things were never fully clear!
Communication is such a critical skill for leaders and one of the most important aspects is gaining an understanding of the other person’s position or point of view.
Asking good questions
I believe a good starting point is our 6 good friends – the open questions that start with “what”, “why”, “where”, “how”, “when” or “who”.
These simple tools will bring out far more information than answers that just get a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response.
I also find it useful to have some questions I ask my clients on a regular basis and you can do likewise with your people and customers.
“What is going well?” and “What is not going so well at the moment?” can bring out some interesting nuggets!
Asking good questions shows interest and is at the heart of an empathetic approach to communication. You remember the saying about “2 ears and one mouth” no doubt?
Summarising to be sure
I also find that I believe I have understood what someone has said, but when I play back my understanding to them it is not accurate. Summarising your understanding of another’s viewpoint is a simple way to confirm this.
Brevity – less is more
In seeking to gain understanding from others, we need to be mindful that their ‘reptile brain’ will be processing what we say first. If it feels overly complex or risky, they may disengage quite quickly. So keep things simple and be very mindful of using jargon or terminology that is not understood outside you area of knowledge.
Why face to face is always better
You may have heard of a study by Mehrabian in the 60s which concluded that 55% of our communication is from body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% words! I’m not convinced by the research or % figures, but one thing is for sure – we communicate using all three areas.
Therefore, the more important the communication, the more important it is to move from email to phone to personal meeting!
Communication is a vast subject, but I hope these ideas and thoughts are helpful in gaining greater clarity for you and others.
Next time you are about to hit send, put the phone down or walk away from a meeting, be sure that you have understood and they have too.