Let's face it. Sometimes we don't do a very good job of being clear in our communications. What we want to say is certainly clear in our minds, but somehow, on its way out of our mouths, things get muddled. Unfortunately, this is a natural occurrence, and all sorts of important information gets lost in the exchange. You say one thing; they hear another. You meant one thing; they perceive another. In the workplace where communication is essential, unclear information can cause all kinds of losses to the organization. Everything from people doing the wrong things at the wrong times with the wrong people to customers' needs being misunderstood, and the ball gets dropped.
So how do we clear up the confusion? There are myriad ways based on where the holes are. But I'll offer you up three.
1) After having a conversation about something that is vital, follow it up in writing. That way, when you go back and read what you've written (and you should always go back and read what you've written), you can determine if there is clear enough conveyance of the content. In writing, information appears more concrete.
2) Ask for clarification from the other party. Say something like: "Since this is a very important matter, I want to make sure I'm making myself clear on the details. What's your understanding of what the situation is and how we'll move ahead?"
3) If an action step has been requested, follow up before it is due to make sure it's getting accomplished appropriately. That could be done as a quick email in enough time before the deadline that says something like, "I was just checking in to make sure that you have everything you need in order to deliver the product to the customer by next Wednesday." This statement reintroduces the topic without appearing to micromanage, and it reminds of deadlines and action items in case the person misunderstood any aspect of what was expected.
Clearing up the muddiness of language and understanding is a critical aspect of great communications skills. Too often we say one thing, but it's perceived differently by the other person. The one thing you can't control is how your output is received by someone else. But you can control the kinds of attempts you make so that it is as clear as the emerald waters of the Caribbean. No more mud.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Join me as I present "Zero Visibility: How Blind Spots Impact Our
Success" at the Administrative Professionals Conference, April 28th at
the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.