To communicate effectively, we must avoid making assumptions of others based upon what they tell us or the non-verbal signals that they send us. Remember, this is a two-way street. Sometimes, they’re making assumptions of us based upon the exact same things. So, avoid making assumptions. When we make assumptions, we invite a breakdown in communication. That’s how rumors get started – rarely based on facts, they’re based on assumptions.
Here are three tips that will help you improve communication:
The first one is to simply listen more and talk less. What that means is monitoring our question to statement ratio, which should be about 80/20, where we’re spending 80% of our time asking questions and listening, and 20% of our time telling and selling. When we do that, and we have our employees answering questions, they will sell themselves, and you’ll create more independent employees that will free you up to get other things done.
Number two is something that we call “echoing.” This is a very simple practice. To make sure that we’re clear on what someone’s told us, we just stop and say, “Could I just repeat back to you what I just heard you say? I want to make sure we’re on the same page.” And it works the other way around. If you’re not certain that they received the message you sent, you could ask, “Could you just repeat back what I just told you? I want to make sure that I’m clear.” Simple.
Number three is called “two emotions”. This is having the courage to go there. This involves sharing one positive and one negative feeling based upon an assumption that you’re making. It works like this. In a meeting, let’s say that you’re making a presentation about implementing a new project, and you notice, through non-verbal signals, that someone’s kind of checked out.
Immediately after the meeting take that person aside and say, “You’ve always been such a great supporter of every initiative that we’ve tried to institute in this company, but I gotta tell you, in today’s meeting, I don’t think you were on board. Could you just share your two emotions with me? Give me something positive, something negative.” Here’s what this person might tell you. “I really am excited about the project, but my concern and maybe where you misread me, is that we may not have the resources or the right time-frame.” Wouldn’t that feel great? Wouldn’t that avoid a train-wreck in the future?
What are the assumptions that you’re making of some of your direct reports? And just as importantly, what do you think are some assumptions that they may be making about you? Have the courage to go there, apply these three tips.