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Make it more likely your message is received

4 min read: We assume so much when we communicate. We believe, mostly, that those around us are on the same page. That they see the world as we do. We even believe that they listened and understood the words that came out of our mouth. But really, the only way we know if what we asked for or said was understood is when we witness the thing that we expect to happen, happen.

If you are not getting what you want from someone, perhaps it’s time to change your behaviour.

Here are some 7 tips for making what you want, more likely to be received.

  1. Use face to face communication where possible. Avoid email especially for requesting new behaviours. If you can’t speak face to face, use the phone. Research has shown that the majority of communication, a whopping 93% is non-verbal and only 7% verbal. What you say matters but not as much as how you say it and what your body is doing at the time too. That includes your face.

  2. Make sure you have the persons attention. Are they distracted at the time you are speaking to them? Is the timing right for them? If they are already doing something they will be more likely to give you an automatic verbal response than a thought through one. Giving you the illusion that they understood.

  3. Make sure what you are asking for is as clear and as unambiguous as it can be. Pinpoint exactly what you want and expect. Draw a picture if you want, don’t be embarrassed. Avoid colloquialisms, jargon, slang or acronyms. Also, finish your sentences.

  4. Check for the transfer of your information by asking a question about it, perhaps indirectly, for example, “what do you think about this?” If they have to think about what you are asking, it helps the information to sink in. You are literally helping them make connections in their brain.

  5. If it’s really critical, don’t beat around the bush, ask the person to repeat what you have asked and probe further by asking them to describe in more detail certain key points from the request.

  6. Treat everyone differently. Tailor your style to suit the individual. Adjust your approach based on what you know about them from your previous encounters. We are all different. Good leaders, parents, partners know this and treat each person they encounter as best suits that person.

  7. After all this, assume that the person you are speaking to may either not have ‘heard’ you or has a different vision and interpretation of what your have asked. There is no such thing (yet) as thought transfer.

It’s not over yet. Now that you have done your best at trying to get what was in your head out into someone else’s, it’s not time to sit back and rest.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. You get what you put in.

Until the person you are speaking to demonstrates, through action, that they have understood what you have asked of them. The responsibility remains with you. This is the only time you can start to let go. This is when the baton has been not only received but taken.

I am suggesting a flip to how we usually communicate.

I am asking you to judge your ability to communicate successfully on the actions taken by the person you are communicating with. If their behaviour matches what you were after, good job, well done. If they don’t, try again until they do.

Don’t get annoyed, don’t lash out at the person for ‘not listening’. It’s your responsibility to get the message across. The only person you are in control of is you.

‘OK, so they didn’t get it, I’ll explain it in a different way next time; my bad…’

This change in approach is not a natural one. It takes practice. It means you have to accept responsibility. You wont want to. You will want to defend your corner. Perhaps you might even be right but what does right matter if you didn’t get what you wanted.

I don’t always get this right, I don’t think you can always get this right, but you can practice it. And the great thing is, that when you get it wrong, you can practice humility.

I am often calming my inner frustration and saying to myself, right, you just didn’t do a good enough job at explaining what you wanted. It’s actually a great way to relieve the stress of miss-communication.

Show compassion to yourself and others. Don’t get angry when someone doesn’t do what you want or someone doesn’t appear to have listened.

If you didn’t get what you wanted, what good does being right do?

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