We communicate all day, every day. Communication is likely THE essential skill of humankind.
In order to communicate fully, the words spoken must align with the non-verbal cues we are using. We’ve all had conversations where we this alignment didn’t exist and you likely left confused, not knowing with certainty the outcome. Alan Greenspan, an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, is quoted as saying, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
This quote illustrates the reason we can find ourselves confused in conversations–the “sending” party is generally responsible for saying/expressing their point-of-view or opinion but all-too-frequently doesn’t take responsibility to ensure the “receiving” party has understood what was meant.
Last week I was having a conversation with a mentor who keenly illustrated a better way to communicate where all parties take responsibility for full conversation. We were discussing an idea I had had about his business. I expressed what I thought was clear in an email and he asked if we could talk for a few minutes. During our call, my mentor expressed a lack of understanding of my idea. I told him what I was thinking and he said, “OK, let me make sure I understand…” and rephrased what I had just said. I confirmed his statement was correct and we continued on.
This short interaction shows that all parties in a conversation must take responsibility for coming to a common understanding. I thought I had been clear and concise in what I said and he took the time to make sure what I had said is what he understood.
He forced clarity into the conversation by simply stating, “let me make sure I understand.” Six words ensured understanding. Six words proved to me his humility. Six words showed his willingness to learn.
Call to Action
In order for me to improve from this conversation, I now must implement these six words in my daily routine. I ask that you do the same!
Let me make sure I understand
For more information, I suggest listening to (or reading the transcript of) this episode of the Becoming Your Best podcast: https://www.becomingyourbest.com/ep-118-win-at-communication/.