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, each 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.
I have blogged in the past about this kind of thing … back in 2006 I wrote an entry called “I said this and she heard that! Later that same year I wrote about communicating with different personality types.
Learning about different communication styles can really give a good insight into why this kind of stuff happens … so if you can take a few minutes I would strongly advise you read those entries to understand the basics.
It should also be said that 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 or it might mean a lost job interview 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 … 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. 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.
Don’t fall into those traps … be careful when your communication is important.