What did you say?
Business Communications: “What did you say?”
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker
“It is ironic but true that in this era of electronic communication, personal interaction is becoming more important than ever.” Regis McKenna (b. 1939)
Once you begin to grasp the realization that you are communicating all the time (remember that body language and listening skills makes up 85% of communication) and you start to see that you may not have been saying what you thought you were, you can now take a look at how others are projecting to you and their surroundings.
Beyond the actual words that someone speaks to you there are many other factors you are often unconsciously interpreting a person by. It is time to become consciously aware of what those are so that you are able to more accurately understand what a person is fully trying to say to you. Do they have a hidden agenda? Do they believe themselves what they are saying to you? Did they mean to sound so harsh?
Although the specific words make up only a small portion of what is being said, there is one important thing to remember: the human lexicon (brain) stores and retrieves words by association not by definition (otherwise we would all be walking dictionaries). This means that what a person’s experience with a word is will be how their memory chooses to store the understanding of that word. So, if you say something to someone using all the right body language appropriate with what you are saying they could still walk away thinking, “when this was said to me before it meant…” How can you get around this problem? Ask a person to repeat back to you what you just said, not necessarily as bluntly as that but say, “How do you see the situation?”
Moving past the words consider things like the person’s tone of voice. Does their tone of voice match what it is they are trying to say to you? For instance, when someone is reporting their year end projections do they raise their voice at the end indicating that this goal is unachievable? What about eye contact, are they looking at you when you are speaking showing that they are interested in what you have to say or do they only look at you when they are speaking leaving the impression that what they say is important but what you say is not so?
Perhaps the largest problem we are currently facing is that of e-mail. How can you tell if the person is facing you when speaking? How do you know the tone or pitch of their voice? How do you know if they mean RIGHT NOW it must be done or right now when you get a chance?
Practice, practice, practice the art of reading others. Don’t rely on technology to replace the valuable necessity that humans have to relate on many levels with each other.