Do you ever find that sometimes people just don’t understand what you’re trying to say? You know you’ve got a brilliant idea or opportunity for them but they’re just not buying in to it. Or that they interpret your words in a way that you didn’t mean at all?
A negative and unhelpful response to this is to give up immediately. Worse still is getting angry, blaming them, and making them feel stupid or wrong. This will only serve to create resentment, making your communications task all the more difficult.
A more positive way to improve the situation is to listen to the feedback they’re giving you and change the way you communicate accordingly.
Questions to consider when analysing why a meeting, sales pitch or conversation didn’t go as intended are:
- Have I actually communicated what I intended? Did I speak/write with clarity and purpose? How could the words I used have been interpreted differently to what I intended? Did I give them too little or too much information?
- Have I considered all the impacts of my proposition on the individual? Have I been self-obsessed and failed to take their priorities, needs and concerns into account? This is easily done, especially when you’re excited about an idea.
- What’s going on behind the scenes that could be contributing to their frame of mind and therefore their understanding and response to your words? Are they stressed and under-pressure? Happy or sad? Have they got personal things going on that are distracting them? Rather than making assumptions about this, gentle questions can be a proactive way to understand where someone is at.
- Where were they when you spoke to them/they read your words? How did they access the information? Were they checking in via their smart phone and reading whilst multi-tasking? Have they given you their full attention?
- What feedback have they given you? What do you need to take from this? Is there an opportunity for you to have another conversation with them at a better time?
As the writer, philosopher and psychologist, Edward de Bono, once wrote: “Communication is always understood in the context and experience of the receiver, no matter what was intended.”
By recognising this, you can then begin to get to the bottom of why you might not be reaching people and having the impact on them that you intended.
Ultimately, whether you’re communicating via a telephone conversation or email, via a blog or via a media interview, you are doing so because you want to achieve something from someone. Therefore, the onus is on you to get that communication right.
If you would like to learn more about this, we can help you. It’s a topic covered in our PR and writing skills training course, You, Your Profile and Other Stories; you can read blogs on how to communicate to your target audience here, here and here; and we offer free 45-min advice sessions where you can pick our brains on key comms challenges you might be experiencing. Or you can hire us to communicate on your behalf!