With verbal and non-verbal exchanges in communication, it is easy to see how meaning can get lost. Wherever we go there is the written or the spoken word. But so often, particularly with the spoken word, one to another, we fail in our attempt to communicate our meaning.
One time my hairdresser and I were communicating. I was speaking, explaining what I wanted, and she was nodding and then I was nodding to her recap. Then I was crying. Apparently – much shorter hair later – we had not communicated.
How does this happen? What is about words that make conveying meaning so difficult? We assume that we have been understood and then we don’t really listen to what the other person is saying. We strive to be understood and we think we have and yet, often the message falls flat. There are other clues such as body language, gestures, eye contact, voice tone, amongst others that go into the mix and these help to exchange our ideas. But when you get right down to it, we need words to explain the finer points of what is we mean.
It is easier to know when you have not communicated: sitting in a restaurant all alone, a receipt for a full set of dishes when all you wanted was one replacement dish, a load of dirt on the driveway instead of on the lawn. The list could go on.
While casual conversation and communication is not the focus here – even though miscommunication happens then too. If we are trying to arrange a service, build our business, make a purchase, or write content for a website, we need to be clear about what we want to say.
What do we need to do make sure we communicate to convey our meaning?
- Begin with the goal in mind
- If we don’t know what we want then how will be get there?
- Be specific
- Was the information about a dinner party really necessary when you were looking for one replacement dish?
- Be clear on the details
- Were you to meet in the restaurant downtown, or at the west-end location?
- Keep your audience in mind
- Does the telephone order information get entered onto the delivery receipt?
- Listen to the other person
- Did the other person really repeat what you said?
It is not enough to assume that our intent will be understood. Know your goal, be specific and listen.