Have you ever had someone claim that you said something different than what you told them? Do people seem confused by your words, even when you feel you are being clear? I have noticed some things that separate clear communicators from the rest. Perhaps these observations will help.
Start with the End.
Many years ago someone told me this:
“Think like this > but communicate like this <”
His point was that you go through a process of collecting ideas and information, and you finally come to a conclusion. Don’t make your listeners work that hard, tell them what you concluded, and then share how you got there.
Consider this example:
Scenario 1: "We need to replace our accounting system. I created a process to evaluate the top 10 vendors. I ran them all through the analysis, and only 4 were worth following up on. I formed a team of 6 people to help make the decision. Then we met with each vendor. Finally, based on our collective weighted criteria, we chose MoneySmart."
Scenario 2: "We are recommending MoneySmart as our new Accounting platform. This platform was the one which best meets our needs and price point, while still being scalable enough to grow with us for years to come. Our team of 6 people from key roles in the company created weighted criteria and evaluated 10 companies, MoneySmart was the clear choice."
Do you see a difference here? Did you stay awake during that first scenario? It’s hard to stay focused because you don’t know where it’s going. Did they choose a vendor at all? You’re not sure what you need to do with all this information. Should you be evaluating their selection process?
Scenario 2 gets to the point quickly. You might have questions about how they came to this conclusion and they’re going to answer them for you. In the first scenario you don’t have any questions because you don’t know what they are telling you.
Don’t make the listener work for it.
If you’ve ever thought “well they should know that already” you might be making your listeners work too hard. Be explicit. Connect the dots for them. Don’t communicate in riddles. People have a lot going on besides what you are saying, help them out.
Consider this example:
Scenario 3: We can get the part they need from somewhere else. Then we’ll have everything we need.
Scenario 4: The axle assembly team is missing a part, but we can get it from an alternate vendor, PartSmart, who we normally use for specialty items. That should give the axle team everything they need.
In Scenario 3, the listeners were confused “where are you getting the parts?”, “what part?” “who needs it?” When asked about this, the speaker was annoyed, “they know we’re talking about the axle so why should I have to say that?” and “of course we’re getting it from a vendor, where else would we get it from? And why do they care as long as we get the parts?” But as you can see from Scenario 4, just a little more information completes the picture. I’ve noticed that sometimes when I try to keep things too high level, I leave out information that completes the picture and the message gets confusing. Sometimes you need to give a little extra information that might not be necessary but helps paint a whole picture.
What has worked for you to hone your communication? Let us know!