Communication is something we often underestimate. That’s how marriages often get into trouble, as well as most projects in the business world. We know how to speak the same language, yet we often miscommunicate.
Over the years of managing various people, I’ve learned the first step to better communication is acknowledging that people communicate differently. Some people naturally embellish, or are vague with words but emphasize nuances. Others are literal. Even within my family one of my sons is very literal and the other very much not. That causes a lot of tension.
One thing that is common, however, is we all want to be understood. In order to effectively communicate across a broad set of people, you must speak with clarity AND offer rationale. Sounds simple, but what a big difference this can make.
When I tell someone that he did a good job, smile, and walk away, the person may feel temporarily good because the statement was positive. But what if I had said that he did a good job in getting his team to work cohesively in meeting a difficult project deadline, and as a result the client will renew our contract? This compliment would be much more impacting as there is clarity in his mind of what is being appreciated.
Clarity and providing rationale usually help in all tense communication situations across the different personality types. One time I had run 18 miles in training for a marathon. Afterwards, my family went to a dimsum restaurant but was seated in a corner where the servers couldn’t easily see us. After 30 minutes, I got up and made a huge scene to the complete embarrassment of my family. Regardless of my rationale, I became a jerk in everyone’s eyes.
Had I gotten up and explained to the servers that I had been waiting for 30 minutes, which seemed a bit unreasonable, and it would be greatly appreciated if we could get some food despite being seated in the corner, I think anyone around me would have respected my request.
At work, in the home, with friends, don’t just throw out one-line bombs without clarity and rationale. Speak with clarity and provide rationale and see if your communications skills improve, along with your relationships.