Effective communication is essential to successfully interacting with others. We often take for granted that people know what we mean. Although we assume we are being understood, not enough effort is made to verify that this is actually the case.
Are you understood when communicating with others? When your thoughts, intentions, or ideas are misunderstood, numerous problems result. Time is wasted, mistakes are made, feelings are hurt, your intentions are misinterpreted, or people get the wrong idea.
You can be misunderstood when making a point or when responding to what someone else said or wrote. In order to be understood, you have to know what are the desired end results you would like. If your goal is vague or your thoughts disorganized, you won’t be able to communicate in a clear, easily understood manner.
In order to be understood, you must understand and adapt to your audience. You have to adjust your communication approach to overcome any barriers. Obstacles may exist because of: age, gender, background, experiences, education, occupation, assumptions, prejudices, stereotypes, attention level, language, culture, mindset, attitude, or emotional state.
The speed of your speech and vocabulary level should be such that your message is easily discernable. Don’t overwhelm your listener. Invite questions. Watch for, and be receptive to signs that your listener wants to respond or ask questions.
Keep it simple and to the point. Avoid complex or verbose communications. Don’t wander by including lots of disjointed or irrelevant topics.
In communications, less is more. People have a limited attention span. Taking an inordinate amount of time to get to the essence of what you seek to convey will loose your audience.
As you are speaking, watch the reaction of your recipient. If they don’t exhibit the response you expect, or look confused, ask questions to determine the reason for the misunderstanding and make corrections before proceeding.
Communicating while you are angry or upset is easily misunderstood. You will say things you may later regret. Give yourself adequate time to calm down before speaking or writing. Failing to take this approach results in aggravating situations and creating additional problems.
Pay attention to your voice inflection. It can change your intended meaning. If you are distracted, your inflection may not be what you intended. Additionally, when you have an important message to convey, make sure thoughts are focused.
If you use humor, make sure it’s appropriate to the situation and doesn’t offend anyone. Whereas it’s OK to poke fun at yourself, don’t do it to others. You may not mean anything offensive, but many people don’t react well to being joked about.
A friendly, positive attitude makes your message easier to understand. When someone thinks you have a negative message, they get defensive and won’t be receptive to what you are trying to convey.
Using questions to get your point across is very effective. It encourages more listener participation than simply making statements. It holds their attention and allows them to feel they are part of a conversation rather than just being lectured to.
Adapt to your audience. Be clear and concise. Ask open ended questions to verify that you have been understood. Don’t just ask yes or no questions such as, “Did you understand me?”
Being understood is a two way process. You have to deliver a clear, easily understood message and your audience must interpret it correctly. When people have no idea of what you said, nothing has been accomplished.