Early in my career as a teacher someone once told me that if my students didn’t understand what I was telling them then I should accept some of the responsibility for this. I have never forgotten this advice, even though it doesn’t stop me from being frustrated when I can’t seem to get my point across.
It’s easy enough to blame other people for their failure to understand what you are saying, it’s much harder to stop and reflect on what is causing the problem. Maybe it’s you?
I know that sometimes I am not very clear. Without wanting to make excuses, there are a lot of reasons that this can happen. Here are a few:
1. You’re not really clear what your point is. (I know I have talked about this before, but honestly it is a really common cause of miscommunication). It’s not so much that you are confused, it may be because you haven’t had a chance to really think through your point of view so you’re not really sure where you stand on the issue. If this happens, consider asking people to come back later when you have had a chance to think. This is actually quite flattering to the other person. Giving yourself a chance to think before you talk will give them a more considered and thoughtful response, and it will certainly stop you from sounding garbled.
2. Wrong time and place. Choosing your moment carefully. If you have something really important to say then you need to make sure that the person receiving the information is in a receptive frame of mind. Try to reduce distractions so that you have as much of their attention as you can.
3. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. There is a lot of evidence to say that if you use jargon and buzzwords, people just switch off. You might as well be talking to a brick wall.
4. Try and make your message relevant to the other person. People are basically interested in themselves so if you can frame your message in a way that relates to their interests and experiences they will be more engaged and more likely to listen to what you have to say.
5. Lay out the context and relay your information in an orderly fashion. I had an experience with this yesterday. I went to a meeting with a colleague who had an idea to sell me. He launched into the details without giving me any context or background for his ideas. He was well and truly up to speed with his proposal, but he didn’t bother to convey this to me and I was soon lost and confused. Eventually I just stopped listening. Spending a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting explaining the content and background (briefly) ensures that everyone in the room is at the same point and can move forward together. Try to avoid leaving people behind or you will lose them.
These are just some simple ideas that are worth are try. Next time you are trying to explain something important or complex or both, try to control the time and place that the conversation is going to happen. Be as well prepared as possible and reduce the number of external distractions for your audience. Give your audience a brief overview of the issue and the context so that know what you are talking about and above all, use simple clear language.
Let me know if you have any successes (or failures). I’d love to hear from you.
- Everyone wants to be engaging (room435.wordpress.com)