MY FAVOURITE EXPRESSION from the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, is “Communication is the response you get.” For those not familiar with the field of NLP, I explain it as ‘practical psychology’, that is, tools that can be applied to the workplace and home. And communication is at the heart of all of the skills.
The expression, “Communication is the response you get”, reminds us that just because we know what we are talking about, it doesn’t mean the other person has a clue. This difference in understanding could be due to a difference in gender, age, nationality or beliefs. We’ve heard of the ‘generation gap’, the concept that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’, and blamed ‘cultural differences’ for misunderstanding. At the heart of all of these communication breakdowns was the fact that what we think we say, and what the other person understands, are not necessarily the same.
So how can we improve understanding?
The easiest way is to encourage ‘active listening’. Active listening includes nodding, verbal utterances, such as ‘ah ha’ and ‘ok’, as well as asking the other person to paraphrase what was said. A great example of this communication break down was highlighted in a recent post by my colleague Morry Morgan. Here’s a recap:
Over a cup of coffee, during the break in my training, I saw Dave and Sherry talking in depth about work. I was too close to avoid eavesdropping into their conversation, and thankfully I did.
“Sherry, we need to buy more tea for our guests,” said Dave, before pausing briefly, and then turning around to delve into the coffee and biscuits. Sherry nodded, and turned to head to the bathroom. But I suspected a misunderstanding had occurred, and so cut her off at the door.
“Sherry!” I called. “May I ask you what Dave just said?”
“Sure,” said replied Sherry. “Dave is going to buy more tea for our guests.”
“Wait there,” I requested, and I walked over to where Dave stood with his coffee. ”Dave, a quick question. What did you say to Sherry?” Dave looked slightly perplexed, but responded. “I told her to go and buy more tea for the guests.”
In this example, there was a clear difference in the understanding of the expression “we need to buy more tea for our guests.” Dave implied that Sherry should buy the tea, whereas, this lack of directness made Sherry believe that David was going to buy the tea. So who was wrong? Well, since “Communication is the response you get”, and Dave was making the request, ultimately he would be responsible for this misunderstanding.
Acknowledging that we are responsible for others’ understanding encourages us to be more careful in both ‘what’ we say and ‘how’ we say it. Furthermore, with confirmation that the other person understands, you also save yourself stress by delegating effectively. And we all know that great leaders are great delegators!