IF YOU WANT THEM TO HEAR YOU, SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE!
You've probably noticed that there are some problems with our
communication system. We have to use words. They are often
imprecise, awkward and unable to capture the essence of what we
want to say.
Problem #1. Words mean different things to different folks. Even
when we find what we consider to be adequate words, the listener
hears something else.
Problem #2. It is difficult to capture feelings in words. And,
equally difficult to remove feelings from words. What a
Problem #3. Listeners may not be listening. There's a big
difference between listening and hearing: only the former
engages the mind. Many folks begin formulating their response
after you say the first ten words.
Problem #4. The listener's prior experiences colour your words
for them. You are not alone. They are hearing every person who
has ever spoken to them in your way or with your words as you
speak. Therefore, they decide where to place their attention and
what their focus will be.
Problem #5. And, we wonder why communication is difficult? It's
enough to make you close your mouth forever!
Now, aside from those five problems, there are other
considerations. Here are some simple and significant ways to
increase your chances of being accurately heard and, hopefully,
listened to. Consider the following questions:
1. Do you know what is important to your listener? Are they more
interested in facts or feelings? Demonstrate your desire to
communicate with them by leading with what is of greater
interest to them.
2. Do you know if your listener is more interested in the
details or the decision? Some folks are more comfortable with
assessing and planning solutions than with making decisions and
implementing them. To whom are you speaking? It is difficult to
get a "decide and do" attitude from an "assess and solve"
person. Similarly, it is more difficult to engage an "assessor"
in a decision making conversation. They will usually want to
keep perfecting their plan. Acknowledge this and affirm their
skill before asking them to decide.
3. Is your listener results- or relationship-oriented? Spending
any time at all with small talk may drive a results-oriented
listener to distraction. Conversely, offering no small talk can
push away a relationship-oriented person. Lead with their
interest and then you can present your point, or your
4. How is your timing for the conversation you wish to have? If
it could be in any way confrontative, be careful. Taking just
five minutes to assess a situation prior to bringing up an issue
can be very informative. Listen. Pick up the 'climate' around
your proposed listener. As with the philosophy of 'pick your
battles', so, it is wise to pick your times to increase the
probability of being heard.
5. Are you clear about what you wish to say? Wading into a
conversation without clarity can find you drowning in
misunderstanding quickly. Think about the outcome you wish to
create before you open your mouth. This will help you temper and
tailor your approach to reach your desired goal.
A quick way to measure the appropriateness of your communication
is to ask yourself, "Am I willing to be spoken to in the way I
am about to speak?" If the answer is 'Yes', proceed with
assurance. If the answer is 'No', be very thankful you took that
minute to think.
Communication can be tricky, but most tricks can be mastered.