We have all had those moments, some of us more than others, when we realise that we are talking at "cross purposes" with someone.
They are thinking about one thing and we are talking about something else!
It is often innocuous, and cause for a little chuckle, each thinking you were talking about someone else or thinking of a different event in relation to the story. etc.
The real problems come when the communication is not clear and it really needs to be. In extreme cases this could be life and death scenarios such as a co-pilot giving emergency instructions to the pilot (have you read Gladwell's "Outliers") or a war situation. It could also be a business situation that could cost a sale, cause a problem or result in a project going off course.
Common sense and a clear approach to communication can solve most issues.
Have you ever been given directions to somewhere, set off and at the first junction there are 4 exits instead of three, or the church you were supposed to use as a landmark wasn't there?
Perhaps the explainer rushed their communication, or forgot about THAT turn or a million other things.
If you are late for an appointment it might be no big deal, on the other hand it might mean a lost job interview, or being late for an important event etc.
Clear communication does NOT come easily, requires some effort and often is as dependent upon the listener as the talker.
Do you ask the right questions?
Do you REALLY listen AND hear everything said? It is very easy to miss a critical word that could affect what you hear.
In a business context, documentation helps, so always take notes in EVERY meeting. Do NOT rely on your memory, no matter how good you think it is.
Be sure to clarify any potential anomalies, by asking lots of questions. If a point is critical then perhaps ask the question a couple of ways, or repeat the answer to ensure you got it right. (So it costs $23.75 ... could that possibly be $2375.00???, perhaps not but a difference in currency could be substantial etc.)
As a salesperson talking to a prospect you are sometimes (most times?) pre-disposed to look for certain "indicators" that might identify a potential client. It is easy to allow that to colour what you hear, somewhat akin to the handyman with a hammer always finding a way for the hammer to be the solution to the problem!
We somehow expect communication to be second-nature, yet there are so many ways we can go off track. Cultural reasons, language barriers, listening skills, a distracted listener, an unclear word or expression, the way we are "programmed" to communicate (personality profile) are all reasons why we mess up communication.
“There is no communication that is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.”
Don't fall into those traps.
Take EXTRA care when the communication is important.
Get extra eyes on it if possible.
Proof read and double check!
Kevin Dee is founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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