A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on miscommunication in the workplace, and how so much of it is caused by the fact that people routinely fail to realize how little they are actually communicating. We think we’ve said a lot more than we actually have. As a result, our colleagues are left
guessing as to what we meant, or what we want from them. All too often, they guess wrong.
by the popularity of the post, Fast
Company readers can relate.
You know how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end of
communication that is confusing or vague.
But most of us have no idea
that we are guilty of the same crime.
It’s easy to see why–after all, we
know what we mean. Unless we are
confronted directly about how poorly we are communicating (something people are
generally loathe to do, for a number of reasons), how are we to know if we’ve
received a number of emails asking how to put the insight gained from the last
post into practice on a daily basis.
Here are three strategies you can use to make sure that you are saying
everything that needs to be said.
a few moments before communicating to identify
the key points you need to get across. Write them down if you think you might forget something when
you are actually conversing (this is very common). If you think any of your key points “go without saying,” you
are probably wrong.
2) Create a process for
assessing understanding. Everyone on your team needs to participate
— don’t single anyone out. When
you communicate something to a team member, end the encounter by asking them to
summarize in their own words what they heard.
For this to work well without anyone
feeling patronized, you need to make it clear that this is not a test–your
concern is that you didn’t
communicate effectively, not that they weren’t paying attention. Also, it has to work both ways. When your team member brings something
to your attention, you should
summarize what you heard as well.
Without direct feedback, there is no way
to figure out if the message was fully received. But people are reluctant to provide this feedback if there
is no explicit process in place.
They worry about looking foolish, or irritating the communicator
(particularly when the communicator is the boss.)
Invite questions should they arise.
Sometimes, you don’t realize that you didn’t understand what a colleague
asked you to do until you actually try to do it. At this point, it can be embarrassing to go back and admit
“I don’t get it.” Take the
embarrassment out of it by reminding your team members that you are always
happy to answer any questions that may come up later. When you are asked
for clarification, provide it with enthusiasm.
know that all of this seems like a lot of work, and it is. But the extra time and effort you put
in to improving your team’s ability to communicate will be well worth it. You’ll spend far less time fixing
mistakes and putting out fires.
Your team will be more motivated and productive. And you’ll have confidence that
everyone is finally, and permanently, on the same page.