środa, 28 stycznia 2015

Say it with different words

People are really amazing. Our ability to learn, to develop our skills is just astonishing. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation that is new for us, we can always find a way how to adapt, how to solve a problem. We are getting better at what we are doing, with handling our duties. To be more effective and have better performance, we look for new ideas, we learn new things, we gather knowledge and try to use it in our daily lives.
And regardless of all this passion, willingness to discover the new and become better every day many of us forget about development of one of our main and most important skill, a skill used almost all the time, with no break. The skill of communication.

It is known far and wide that communication is not only about spoken language, but let me focus on it.

What's the goal?

Through communication we are trying to share some emotions, knowledge, information, etc. with another person or a group of people. But the sharing process is not the most important aspect. The thing which really matters is not what would be said, but whether our interlocutor understands us or not. Whether message that he/she will receive is the one that we intend to convey.

We can be the most skilled orator, we can know fancy words, we can speak for hours and be the greatest expert in our area and we can still fail to communicate our thoughts. And it's not related to knowledge or intelligence of other people. We can be just misunderstood. And many factors can stand behind this, starting from the place where we grow and ending with our current mood.

Is there something that we can do to increase the level of understanding between us?

Learn, you fool!

I believe there's not a single person who will argue there's any activity that we are consciously doing more often than communicating. Yet, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, even since we heavily communicate with each other we spend barely no time on improving our skills in this respect.
And I'm writing also about those who really invest in their own development, those who reserve some time during the day for learning activities.

Why there's so few of us who spend some time on learning about communication techniques, who learn how to do it better and more effectively?

One trainer that I had classes with, told us something that sounds really reasonable. That's why I let myself to use her answer for this question.
Why aren’t we learning how to communicate better? Well, try to ask any person around you and most of them will answer with sentences similar to: "What for? Why should I waste my time? I already know how to speak!"
Do you already see the "Why"? Do you see the reason? Most of us put equality sign between communication and speaking and since they know how to use words, how to build sentences and even more complex statements, they don't see any reason for gaining the knowledge about communication quality itself.
Yet, speech is only one of tools used to communicate our thoughts. And as any good expert, we should know as many tools as possible and know it well to realize our goal - communicate exactly what we want to in the way the other person understands.

That's all about communication.

Please, understand me...

I believe that each of us find yourself in situation of being not understood. I believe it happened not once. Some of us tend to think that our interlocutor just doesn't want to hear us or take our arguments into consideration. But there are also people among us who start to think what I could do better, what happened that my words and my intention wasn't understood as it should have been.
And this is the first step. Once you notice the fact that maybe it was something with your sentences, that maybe message wasn't shared in a way understable by another person, then you can maybe will look for tools which can help you reduce the gap or even remove it at all between what you had meant to say, and what was in fact understood.

Did you just say that?

One of my favourite tools to improve understanding is through paraphrasing. What is it about? It's simply repeating what you just heard in your own words. Using different sentences allows you to verify whether everything was understood well.

When someone is talking about something new for you, he's sharing important information or you are just unsure whether it's exactly what he intended to say, it's a good idea to gently interrupt him and start your statement with "Did you just say ..." and use paraphrase to finalize the sentence.
Whether you hear that it's correct or not - it brings value. Either you will change uncertainty into sureness or you will hear more explanations which would clarify the discussed subject.

You see? You are always winning!

And what when you are the speaker?

And how to handle the opposite situation, when you are the person who talks and wants to be understood? Can you use paraphrasing with the same result? The answer is Yes. However, it's harder in such a situation.

In the first example, when you're asking, you are conquering your own fears - many of us are afraid of asking, because they think they can be seen as unprepared, not qualified enough or even dump. In most cases it won't happen. To be honest, when you ask, you show that you are interested and you are listening with understanding. You are showing your respect. Yet, asking still depends on you and probably your interlocutor won't feel uncomfortable with that.

When you are paraphrasing your own words to describe what you just said to increase a chance that you were understood well, there are people who can feel somehow offended by this. "Do you think I'm dumb?", "Do you think that I didn't understand when you said it first time?"
That's why using this tool as a speaker must be more careful and gentle than as a listener. It's a good idea to build your speech in a way that provokes questions. Or after the important part you can always ask questions like "Am I right with that? What we can do better? How we can improve it?", "Do you have any other ideas?", "What are the weak points in my thinking?" and many others. You can also build it in the way that questions and answer will be an inherent part of your statements. It would be even better.

The main idea is to engage people who are listening to you and provoke them to ask questions. I'm sure that it will bring value not only for them, but for you as well. Things will be more clarified and maybe even improved by their input.

So, don't wait - improve your communication skills and increase your toolset :)
Be successful in your attempts!