Have you ever felt that the person you’re talking to, is giving you every indication that they are there with you and yet, something is amiss? You feel that they’re not on the same page with you. You know what I mean because you’ve read the signs. They pay attention when you’re talking, nod at all the appropriate moments and communicate back accordingly. By all outward signs, everything seems to be moving well. And then whack, out of the left corner, you might find that hey, something’s gone terribly wrong. That person may have either done something completely unthinkable or worse still, done the very thing you had discussed and had thought was stuff you were both clear on. I’ve seen this happen on many an occasion. Sometimes, it’s stuff people say that throw you off. Sometimes, its something they’ve done. Sometimes, it happens in the lifetime of a single conversation and sometimes, you don’t find out till months later. I can say, through experience of course, that these ten tips below will put you much closer to getting clarity on what’s happening. Mind you, these tips are no guarantee as I’ve also been in the situation where I’ve gone through all of the tips below and yet, been blown away. But if the latter occurs, it’s really not so much a case of lack of clarity but more of deception. So, here we go. This is, I feel, one of the best ways to handle communication with a whole range of people in a myriad number of circumstances, ranging from getting started on a new project with new team members, dealing with an immediate boss’ deadlines or project KPIs and even having daily contact with a difficult colleague. 1. Make no assumptions. I put this pretty high on my list and perhaps, it really does justify being at the top of the list. To assume anything at all, you really need to be on the same page with another person. You need to have your interests aligned, you need to be in the same situation, you need to have similar personalities and values and then you are that much closer to being sure that you guys are on the same page. Otherwise, you can take it as a given that different values, approaches and also where they are in their career, their personality and a whole host of other extraneous factors play a very great part in how people approach or respond to an issue. You will see that making assumptions, in a situation like this, only serves to provide a temporary sense of calm and a deceptively simple way to navigate this terrain. Assumptions are a dangerous way to proceed when dealing with someone else.
10 Ways To Avoid Communication Curve Balls
2. Don’t take their their word for it. What do I mean – are they lying ? Oftentimes, no but sometimes, they are. Could they be confused? At times. Have they misunderstood you? You’d be surprised at how often people appear like they’ve understood yet don’t. Could it be that while they physically do hear you, they are not really listening? Quite often. People have a habit of seeing things from their own perspective – funny that – and therefore, while you may make an argument about an issue, it may be hard to step outside their comfort zone, to disengage for a moment, to see things as you’ve indicated. Especially true if they have vested interests as well. Yet, all the while, they give you every indication that you are both in agreement.
3. So what can you do about this? Simple. Find ways to calibrate. Take a good hard look at the body language. Does it match the words being uttered? Take the time to repeat back to the person what you’ve understood them to say and get clarification. Ask questions that seek to get more information to confirm what you already believe to be the case. Do this combination of things to ensure that what you believe to be said, is actually being said.
4. Put it in writing. No, you’re not trying to be legalistic here. But the mind plays tricks. Over time, you cannot always be sure that the ideas you’ve retained in your mind of past discussions are really the ideas you had been communicating with another. It is also very easy to lose the real idea you held in the first place when arguments escalate or emotions cloud the issue. The mind has a strange tenacity to hold on to things it shouldn’t when things get contentious. At that point, it may cease being about the issue and be more about the ego. You may indeed crank it up a notch or two as you begin to bolster your argument as opposed to truly discovering what the facts are. Putting things down on paper, whether emailing it to the other party or even making personal notes may be a tedious issue for some but it does go a long way to removing an unnecesssary level of ambiguity and tension. At the same time, it serves to clarify because anything the other party disagrees with, will be communicated back straight away. Do remember though, that you should always be judicious about what needs to be written and agreed on and what need not. Clearly, it is not for every communication that a paper trail need be generated.
5. See it from their perspective. If you can step out of yourself for a while and try to see things from their perspective, why they may view things as they do, it will help you manage through the process that much better.
… to be continued.