Just because you interpreted what I said one way, doesn’t mean you can accuse me of thinking that!
How many times have you been surprised by someone’s reaction? You were trying to be thoughtful/helpful/respectful… and BAM, you’re being shut down, snapped at, or accused of something you had no intention of …or worse, your prospect ghosts you.
People create their own stories from what you are saying based on their experience and perception. Their reaction to what you said is based on their reality.
The first place most people see this is in personal relationships, but what about business conversations which come with a veneer of professionalism, and a heavy dose of “I don’t have to deal with you”. All you might notice is that business doesn’t move down the funnel, you have high staff turnover, or you lose clients.
Great, so what are you supposed to do about it?
Step 1 – Know that it is common. Our perception IS our reality. When you know that people’s minds work that way, it makes it easier to observe when it happens and react less.
Step 2 – The ‘react less’ part is easier said than done! So, step two is breathe. Take a moment to take a deep breath, …and then exhale fully (that part’s important). That physical action will give you your brain a hot second to move on to step three.
Step 3 – Listen. Yes, you just heard them say something …but it wasn’t what you were expecting. So, try reactively listening. For the moment, we have the luxury of slowing down time in this hypothetical conversation, so let’s ‘logic’ this out for a sec. Your first instinct is to reiterate what you said because they obviously didn’t understand. Said another way: you didn’t feel heard.
Think about that. You can’t think about what they’re saying or feeling because you didn’t feel heard.
~ You didn’t feel heard ~
If you can stop in that split second and realize that it’s extremely difficult to move forward when you don’t feel heard, then it’s easier to understand that the person you’re speaking to can’t move forward until they feel heard.
Step 4 – Get curious. There are many ways to do this and reading someone else’s words written here may sound hokey and uncomfortable for you. However, you have to find some way to say what you think you heard. e.g. “Tell me more.”, “It sounds like you are saying/heard me say/are not comfortable with…”, “Are you looking for…”. Any phrase that says: “I heard you say ____, is that correct?
By acknowledging their statement and asking for more, you break the mental loop that triggers 90% of miscommunication. (I made that stat up, but I stand by the ‘it’s really high’ part!)
Step 5 – Learn. You are now on a journey of understanding. Keep asking. Keep listening. Be respectfully persistent. Have and speak your personal boundaries when necessary. Once you are at this stage of communication, you will see a conversation happening and information will flow. It will be easier to hear other’s needs, respectfully agree or disagree, and build relationships.
Step 6 – I’m not sure it’s a step so much as a governing rule. “Be the best person you can be.” That rule leaves a huge amount of room for style and personalization. To take that one step further, be respectful of yourself and be respectful of others. Because in order to be the best person you can be, both sides need to be heard and respected.
It is incredible what you can learn from another person’s reality. If you’re trying this in a personal relationship, give it time and practice the respectfully persistent part. You probably took a while to get to this stage, so give yourself and the other person some time to re-learn this more effective communication style. In business, you may need to do a little probing because, for the most part, people are more likely to back away than retaliate. Perhaps ask some trusted business associates if they wouldn’t mind you asking them a few questions about your communication style. You’re more likely to get an honest answer if they know you are self-evaluating and they feel it is safe to provide feedback. In all likelihood, simply trying these steps on their own will make for more effective communication.
Lynda Davidson, LD Business Focus
I’d love to hear how you are able to create more effective communication – comment below!