If you’ve worked with other people for more than, oh, say, a week, you’ve probably experienced frustration from miscommunication. Maybe you tried to say something that was misunderstood. Maybe you heard something so perfectly clear that you felt there was no other way to understand it...only to find out that the person on the other end thinks you totally missed the ball.
It happens a lot in relationships and business, and in both cases, a lot of it boils down to a common confusion between speaking and communicating. In order to communicate, you need to be sharing your thoughts in a way that ensures the OTHER party understands them.
This happens so much in small businesses and it can lead to some major issues if goals or expectations are set up correctly, clearly, and up front. We’re talking lost jobs, lower profits, missed paperwork, missed goals, and more, all because we aren’t communicating clearly.
5 Tips to Improve Your Communication
1. Be Specific
When you are trying to communicate with someone else, make sure you are SPECIFIC about what you want. If you find yourself thinking to yourself, “They should have known” whenever something doesn’t happen the way you asked for it to happen, I would argue you weren’t specific enough.
The mark of a master is their ability to explain a complicated concept in a way simple enough for the listener to grasp it. Show your mastery!
2. Ensure Understanding
It can be easy to drop into someone’s office, spout a few thoughts off the top of your head, and then move on, but did that person really UNDERSTAND what you you were saying? Maybe they were in the middle of doing a calculation, or reading an email when you came in. When you are done saying what you need to say, make sure they got it. (and let’s not play like they truly got it if you’re all “any questions?”, and they’re all “nope”, m’kay?)
Try asking them to repeat it back to you, or finish your statement with a provocative question that will require them to think about what you said in order to answer. This will help to cement it in their minds, as well.
3. Time Your Message
This point is particularly aimed towards business owners and managers, but could really apply to anyone in your company. We all know how it is. You get an idea in your head about something that needs to get done, and then want to tell the person who needs to do it right away. Maybe you go to them, or, if you’re like some of my past managers, you yell down the hall to have them come to you. You impart your “wisdom” to them, and then everyone goes their separate ways to do what you told them...or so you think.
Have you considered the timing of your message? Just because you were thinking about this great idea right now, doesn’t mean that the other person was in a position to give it their full attention. Were they in the middle of a complex task, or working through an issue with a crew? Maybe they were on the phone about a family issue. Instead, try checking with them first to see if they are free for a few minutes. Maybe they just need 5 minutes to be fully present for you. Isn’t that worth it?
4. Make Eye Contact
One of the best ways to know that you are connecting (or to see IF you are) is to make sure you are making eye contact. It can be too easy to just “mmhmm” your way through a conversation while doing something else and think you got the point and then easily miss important details. If you are trying to convey something really important, this isn’t the time for either party to be multi-tasking. Put the phone down, close your email window, silence your cell phone, and make sure that the other party knows you got this.
5. Respect Each Other
Ultimately, each of these points boils down to respecting the other person enough to make sure what you are trying to communicate is heard and understood, and that both parties know they are. Respect their time, their intelligence, and their personality enough to ensure they GET it; not just that you told them.
Of course, there are probably a ton of other ideas you all have found to help ensure better communication. Writing it down, or putting any communication about a job into your CRM’s message board can be a great way to ensure that the other party sees it, and can refer back to it if they need to refresh their memory on the specifics.
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