Did you ever have an important point to make and it wasn’t heard or understood? What did you do? If you eventually gave up in frustration, you’re not unusual.
When you have something important to say, a little preparation ahead of time can increase the likelihood you’ll be heard.
- Use “I statements.” Take personal ownership for the ideas and feelings you express. When you use terms like “some people” or “our group,” it is difficult to tell what you really think and feel or whether you are just repeating the thoughts and feelings of others.
- Provide the context. Explain your intention in communicating, what you hope will happen as a result, and any assumptions you are making. Don’t expect they will accurately fill in the gap on their own, and they might make a different assumption about your intent.
- Make your message brief but also complete. Don’t ramble. Get to the point quickly. But be sure to include all of the information needed to understand your message.
- Make your verbal and nonverbal messages congruent. If you tell someone you appreciate their help, smile. If you are sharing information, make sure your tone does not sound condescending.
- Frame your message for the listener. The same information will be explained differently to an expert in the field than to a novice, to a child than to an adult, or to your boss than a friend.
- Say it a different way if you’re not understood. If the listener seems confused, don’t just repeat your message. Explain it in a different way – provide additional information, background information or use different words.
- Describe other people’s behavior without evaluating or interpreting. When giving someone feedback on their behavior, describe what they did. For example, say “You keep interrupting me” instead of interpreting their behavior with something like “You’re self-centered and more interested in yourself than in others.”
- When feelings accompany your message, name them and own them. When an unnamed emotional reaction is part of your communication, people will respond to the emotions and not hear the content. Describe your feelings with words like happy, sad, angry, frustrated. Use “I statements” for your feelings. Instead of saying “You made me angry.” Say, “I feel angry.” You are less likely to provoke a defensive reaction.
- Ask for feedback on how your messages are being received. When you’re communicating something really important, it’s worth taking the time and asking the person you are talking with to tell you what he heard. It’s the only way you can know for sure how your message was received. If it seems like there’s a pattern of your messages not being heard, it can be quite illuminating to ask for general feedback on how your messages sound to others.