Say goodbye to crossed signals
“I am only responsible for what I say, not what you understand.”
How often do we hear such comments being made? And how frequent has this led to more problems with your co-workers or people around you?
Miscommunication happens when people fail to check whether the message that they are sending is clearly understood. As people grow to depend heavily on communication through electronic devices, the art of face-to-face communication is also slowly diminishing.
The following are some of the finer things to look for in your next conversation:
Many of us are just too busy trying to respond to e-mails or text messages that we tend to focus on our screen thinking that we can multi-task when people come to have a chat.
This is not only disrespectful, it also tends to create miscommunication.
The human brain is wired to only store five to nine things at one time and trying to respond to mail while discussing important details to someone in front of you will cause you to lose significant data. You might also lose your approachability.
As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”. If you are engaged in a conversation while facing your screen, you may unknowingly send the wrong message to the other party.
To avoid such things from happening, all you need to do is put your phone on silent and shift your chair to face the person who is communicating with you.
Pay attention to your body language. Make sure that there is eye-contact and your body is open. This way, you will not only be able to pay full attention to the person, you will also be telling them that they matter.
Do not assume
Avoid assuming you know everything the communicator has in mind. Generally, we tend to assume that people, especially our colleagues, know exactly what to do after sharing with them a general idea of a situation.
No matter how obvious you may think the solution or action is, always clarify with the person you are talking to about their understanding of the message that you are sending.
It may appear to you that this requires a lot of time. However, it is always better to state the obvious than to deal with the problems that may arise due to any miscommunication.
While optimism is an excellent trait to have, avoid being overly optimistic about our peers’ ability to understand our messages.
Do not interrupt
Again, respect plays a huge role in communication. Always be humble and respect others by listening to what they have to say and not finish their sentences for them.
By allowing people to finish their sentences, you will be able to gather the whole picture before proceeding with asking the right questions in order to better understand the message.
Encourage the person you are engaging with by asking more questions and listening attentively when they speak. This will not only allow people to be more open in sharing their ideas with you, they will also feel appreciated and respected.
Do not forget to plan
Planning for a conversation will not only save you time, it will also ensure that you do not miss any of the issues to be discussed.
Planning ahead allows you to see the flow of the conversation and helps the person with whom you are communicating see a clearer picture of the problems or issues that you are working on as a team.
A conversation is similar to telling a story. You need to have an introduction, a main body and a conclusion to help your audience understand the content of the message.
By sharing a broader context about a certain topic of discussion, you are not only allowing others to see why they are doing a certain task, you are also allowing them to share their point of view on the matter.
You never know what you are missing unless you have someone pointing it out from a different perspective.
Don’t forget to summarise
This element is not only important in presentations, it is also crucial in our daily conversations especially if the conversations that we are having involve certain action plans.
Having a communication recap or summary helps in ensuring that you understand fully what the communicator wanted to say and that the intended message is received.
Summarising is more than reciting what was told to you; it involves analysing information and discerning significant information.
When you, or the person with whom you are communicating, are able to summarise the points in the conversation, you can be certain that the message being communicated is understood and therefore ready to be delivered.
Always remember to follow-up
Research has shown that people forget about 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes. Therefore, it is always best to follow-up a conversation with an e-mail that summarises the items that you had previously discussed.
This is helpful for both parties, especially when you need to revisit the discussion. This will also ensure that there is accountability for both parties in dealing with projects at work.
All in all, it is important to bear in mind that practice makes perfect. Therefore, keep practising to reduce the hiccups in communication that you have in order to ultimately reduce the amount of miscommunications at your workplace.
Majura is a youth trainer by day and explorer by night. When not exploring new languages, she runs leadership development programmes for youth between the ages of 12 and 19 through DIODE camps. Through these programmes, she aims to help youth discover their true potential as a leader. To find out how you can bring the youth leadership programmes to your school or be a part of the DIODE camp series, connect with her on Facebook at Leaderonomics Youth or simply e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more How to articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 7 March 2015