Tag Archive for Misunderstandings

Communicating -Remove the Roadblocks to Receiving Your Message

Distractions are a major cause of misunderstandings during a conversation. Help your listener by removing as many obstacles blocking the path to your message. You won’t be able to control internal filters such as mental or emotional instability, but you can be aware of physical distractions such as illness, hunger or fatigue if you’re observant, present and aware. Obvious anxiety or fear can be lessened by letting your listener know that you are aware of those emotions.

Help remove language barriers by speaking clearly, enunciating and avoiding excess words. Move to a different location if noise or visual distractions are present.

Copyright 2010 Allie Casey
Excerpt from Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-up!

Misunderstandings in the Workplace – An Invitation for Conversation

What is it about communication in the workplace that invites challenge instead of cooperation? Is it ego, fear, ignorance, culture or human nature? I can hear you checking off all of those factors and maybe adding a few of your own. But the question remains… what can you do about decreasing misunderstandings at work?

Short of listing all the potential dreaded conversation scenarios and a list of possible come-backs, I’d like to invite you to explore another approach: An “Invitation to Conversation.”

The “Invitation to Conversation” is both a formula and a mindset. The approach is to look at a conversation as an invitation to join in and share an experience. If I invite you to an event, a party or out on a date you might picture a ceremony, festivities or a romantic evening. You also have the option to accept or decline my invitation. Either way, I expect a response.

If you apply this to business and you decline my invitation you have agreed to disagree. If you accept, you agree to engage in a conversation. Of course, if I don’t hear back that sets off another round of miscommunications. Unfortunately, this is all too common both in business and life.

The invitation also comes with the notion that there will be an exchange of some kind. If I invite you to a birthday party and upon your arrival I hand you a bowl, an apron, and cake-mix you may get a slice of cake in the end, but I suspect that making the birthday cake was not what you had in mind. My thoughts did not translate into your thoughts.

And that is the objective for many workplace conversations-to get me thinking the same way that you do. When you fail to confirm that your message has been interpreted the way you intended that’s the start of another communication miscue. You must take the time to ensure you have conveyed your thoughts in the best way possible and that I have interpreted them the way you intended.

The formula for the “invitation” looks like this:

Intention: What outcome do you want as a result of your message? Be honest here–otherwise everything is built on falsehood.
Information: This is your message. The actual words you speak and the way you convey them.
Interpretation: How your listener deciphers the message. It might not be the way you intended. Check first.
Interaction: This is the key component-engaging to confirm the interpretation. Did they understand as I intended?
Integration: The intended result, change, or behavior is understood, implemented and assimilated.

And this process needs to be in-time, otherwise it’s like receiving the invitation after the event. What’s the point? Use the invitation to change the way you think about engaging with others-think guest not competitor. And use the formula as a simple way to keep on track and ensure that you have been heard correctly.

This technique plus dozens more can be found in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Pick up a copy today.

Communicating at Work for Better Results

Communicating at Work – 5 Reasons Why You are a Poor Listener and What You Can Do About It

I’m going to suggest that most people are poor (or at best, fair) listeners. If you don’t believe you are a poor listener than consider the list below and might walk away with a different belief. In fact, you might wonder how anyone manages to listen without misunderstanding considering all the hoops we put messages through.

Most people listen from their point-of-view or autobiographically while only a small percentage listen with true empathy. Listening from the speaker’s standpoint takes energy, awareness and understanding. It strikes me as a bit like acting. You need to portray a character but you can’t help bring yourself to the role.

Consider the filters that “color” your listening and decide for yourself whether or not your listening skills could use a little help.

1. Education Level: I bet I have your attention already. Too little education in the eyes of the listener and the incoming communication might run through the “I’m not smart enough “or” they think they are better” filter. Reverse the situation and the thoughts and you can see how much education level affects all listeners.

2. Culture: Ethnicity, customs and traditions are filters that are addressed a bit more openly, as suggested by the popularity of diversity training. Visual components that indicate or suggest a different culture may help the aware listener. He or she could use the clues as a reminder to consider how the speaker’s background might support their viewpoint. Conversely, the unaware listener uses the differences to support their own opinion.

3. Economic Background: The “I worked for everything” listener might use this filter to avoid believing the more “economically advantaged” speaker. Just as the other “message sifters” mentioned, economic background can be a barrier to empathic listening no matter which side of the economic coin you were born on. The film “Slumdog Millionaire” comes to mind as a great example of prejudicial listening.

4. Family Messages: Was your family open and demonstrative or indirect and more formal? Did you receive the message that people are generally good or generally evil? What obvious or subliminal messages did you grow up with? Consider how your viewpoint colors your listening. The challenge here is recognizing that other families may not have grown up the same way you did. Remember the first time you had dinner at a friend’s house? Was the dinner conversation lively and encouraged or were controversial topics hush-hush? Think about it.

5. Birth Order: I admit that as the middle child of seven and the first female my mediating qualities were enhanced. Listening to someone who loves conflict and takes the opposing viewpoint just for fun is a challenge for me. How has being the only, first, last or middle child tinted your listening ability?

These are just five of the filters incoming messages go through before we hear a message. I could have included religion, personality and location but the point remains the same—listening from your audience’s perspective takes an acute awareness of your own filters first.

Practice understanding, become knowledgeable and use attentiveness as the tools to becoming a better listener. Misunderstandings will decrease and you might just learn something.

Want more listening tips? First, get FREE instant access to your 6-part audio series on The Power of  Effective Communication by putting your first name and email in the boxes on the upper right. Now pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up, for dozens more tips you can put to use immediately.

Workplace Communication – Assertive Communication Techniques to Get Your Message Across and Be Heard

Assertive communication techniques that allow you to express yourself clearly while still earning respect take a bit of practice but are well worth the effort. Assertive means without becoming loud, angry or irritated. And, respect is not synonymous with agreement it means with proper concern and courtesy.

Here are 5 assertive communication techniques your can practice to be heard without being misunderstood:

1. Self-disclosure is revealing information about yourself that allows others to respond to you by creating a shared vulnerability. This is particularly difficult for managers and leaders to practice as sharing personal deficiencies no matter how common or insignificant are discouraged.

“I don’t know much about…” is a powerful statement that suggests your willingness to learn is greater than your need to be right.

Using the common feel, felt, found approach can also be effective self-disclosure technique:

“I understand how you feel, I felt that way myself when the company changed hands, but then I found that by listening to their point-of view I realized we had many common values.”

2. Acknowledging without agreeing is another communication skill assertive people practice. This is especially helpful when dealing with a dissenter during a meeting or presentation.

“What an interesting thought…” acknowledges the speaker without encouraging further conversation.

“That might be true and here are my thoughts…” is another option.

3. Calm repetition of the same words is a communication skill that is useful when giving information that might not be well-received.

“My intention is to provide you with the details of the new program…” clearly stated in a firm but calm voice repeatedly until you are acknowledged and given the platform is one possible phrasing.

4.Negative assertion is a bit trickier to use and requires a neutral tone of voice. Occasionally someone may attempt to make you wrong especially regarding principles. You might try this:

“Let me understand, you are saying I’m wrong?” Again, a calm non-accusatory voice is important.

5. When a criticism has been directed at you without explanation, assertively ask for more information while repeating the negative comment.

“What is it about my sales presentation that makes you say it is difficult to follow?

These are just a few communication skills everyone can practice in the workplace to create a more respectful environment while decreasing misunderstandings.

What has worked for you? Leave your thoughts.

And, if you want more tips just like the ones above  pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. People just love how easy it is to apply.

Communication at Work—5 Strategies for Developing Leadership and Building Trust

Trust in the workplace, trust in leadership and connecting with others were the key phrases I found in a recent search for the best selling business books. It’s a sign of the times. A lack of leadership and trustworthiness in the workplace appears to be the norm.

Leadership is something everyone in the workplace can practice—not just CEOs and business owners. Communicating trustworthiness starts with honest intention and self-awareness. Additionally, you cannot be an effective communicator or leader if you do not provoke trust in others.

Here are 5 strategies for developing leadership and establishing trust:

1. Tell the truth. Easy to say—difficult to practice. Yet truth is what your customers, co-workers, employees, shareholders and vendors want from you. If a product is going to be delivered late, if a report is not completed, if quality is a problem, if earnings are down tell the truth about it. Most people CAN handle the truth. And, it prompts others to be honest. Truth requires no managing or memorization. Tell the truth—it’s easier.

2. Take action. Leadership means evaluating the available information and moving forward. The best leaders make difficult and timely decisions with about 70-80% of the information. You may never get all the details and waiting to act may result in tragedy. Evaluate and be proactive.

3. Do what you say you are going to do. Okay, this may be a combination of the first two strategies but it bears its own heading. Both actions and in-actions influence others. If you promise to return a call, handle a matter, or show up on time—follow through.

4. Be consistent. Leadership requires consistency in behavior, mood and communication both at home and at work. Nothing kills trust like in-congruency between what you do and say to one person and what you do and say to another.

5. Model what you expect from others. Don’t ask others to do something you wouldn’t do. Trust is developed when you live to ethics.

Communicating leadership requires an inner confidence and an outer personality that can convey that confidence to others both verbally and non-verbally. Many leaders possess the self-confidence to perform tasks and reach goals but lack the ability to connect with people. Trustworthiness is earned through communication not just results.

If you’re serious about developing your leadership qualities start by assessing your communication skills by filling in your name and email address in the boxes on your upper right and grabbing  your FREE 6 part audio on the Power of Effective Communication . You’ll be surprised by your answers–try it it’s fun!

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! the Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up.

Communication at Work: 3 Ways to Improve Communication and Avoid Misunderstanding

Probably everyone has experienced a misunderstanding, misinterpretation or a miscommunication at work. It seems that communication breakdowns are so common they are accepted as business as usual. Each time I ask someone if they have ever been misunderstood at work the answer is always yes– demonstrated with a shy smile, a nodding head and maybe rolling eyes. I suspect some guilt in those answers.

When I ask what the cost of such a misunderstanding might be the immediate response seems to trigger a train-of-thought ending in ‘aha’ moment. Suddenly, the real costs associated with even a simple miscommunication begin to appear like a magicians unending scarf trick. Loss of a customer today due to a misunderstanding could mean lost revenue in the future.  Loss of production time now might result in a missed opportunity later. Miscommunication with a co-worker might result in bad feelings, poor morale, less productivity or costly mistakes. In some professions the result of a misunderstanding can result in death.

Here’s how you can decrease misunderstandings and communicate more effectively:

1. Take responsibility for your communication. Whether or not you have initiated a conversation does not let you off the hook for confirming what was said and intended. Create a mind-set that releases you from being right so you have the opportunity to learn.

I recently encountered a sales clerk who refused to shift her thinking about a situation even when her supervisor explained why a garment I was returning had a different number than the receipt. As far as the clerk was concerned, I did not have a receipt and she proceeded to handle the transaction as such. This resulted in more issues, more time lost and a second round of a managers intervention. Not to mention my growing aggravation.

To the manager’s credit she did an excellent job of explaining what probably happened and after overriding a computer default she expected the return to be handled smoothly. Unfortunately, she failed to confirm the clerk’s interpretation of her message assuming she understood.

Responsibility means verifying that your message was interpreted as you intended.

2. Match your listener’s communication style. If you are a fast talker but your listener is slower paced they may miss what you are saying as they struggle to process your message. If your style is less direct and you prefer to use a lot of words when communicating you may find that someone with a direct style may lose interest, become distracted and misunderstand your message.

Observe your listener and adjust your style accordingly. If you are the receiver, listen from the speaker’s point-of-view and confirm what you’ve heard. Context is as important as content. Your frame of reference can easily distort a positive intention if it doesn’t match the speaker’s point of reference.

3. Handle a misunderstanding immediately. If something has gone wrong in the communication process open up the lines of communication as soon as possible. Often the result of a misinterpretation doesn’t come to the forefront until a further action has taken place. Rather than place blame, seek to rectify the situation and move forward.

The cost of misunderstandings is too big to ignore. Be a part of the solution by taking responsibility, shifting your style and handling misunderstandings quickly.

If you’re serious about improving your communication skills but don’t want to go back to school just pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Do it now!

Don’t forget to pick up your FREE 6-part audio on the Power of Effective Communication.
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Communicating: How You Say it Creates the Meaning of the Message

380519_message_padWords are important but intonation and context create the meaning in your communication. Misunderstandings come largely from a misinterpretation of the context or the framework around the words. The meaning of the message becomes distorted. Even a single word can cause a response so far from the original intention that a conversation breaks down instantly.

Take the word, “oh.” It can mean a multitude of things depending on how you say it:

  • “Oh?” a question.
  • “Oooh!” understanding.
  • “Uh oh.” A mistake.
  • “Oooh?” as in, “You are in trouble now!”
  • “Ohhhhh!” as in, “I really like that!”

If “oh?”(a question) is the response to wonderful news when “ohhhhh!” (I like that) might have been the expected response the conversation could take a distinctly different turn. The bearer of good news who was feeling elated might suddenly be questioning their own feelings.

Just thinking about the turns this short exchange could take is the stuff of sit-coms. She said this and he heard that. Yikes.

In sit-coms the endings are always happy but in real life the consequences might not wrap up with contented, evolved human beings.

How you say it—food for thought.

Job Function–Avoid Costly Misundersandings with Clear Communication

1181346_person_maskMisunderstanding a job role causes more issues than simply lost production. Customer complaints, lost business, public safety or legal issues are all at stake.

Clear communication takes more than a paragraph in a handbook or a few sentences uttered by human resources or a manager. Ideally, the job function conversation should occur not only during the interview and orientation process but throughout the first ninety days.

Here are a few ways to clearly communicate the role of a job to decrease misunderstandings:

  1. Verbally describe the role including tasks and expectations. The challenge here is to be both specific and broad. Use stories and examples to help create a picture that words alone fail to illustrate. Communicate the desired outcome graphically.
  2. Written job descriptions are critical to compliance.  Don’t rely on an initialed checklist indicating the new hire has read and understood the information. Written communication alone does not address questions adequately and leaves the new hire without an appropriate venue for voicing questions or concerns. Take the time to review and expand the job description using real examples.
  3. Use a detailed description of a typical day or scenarios the new hire might encounter. Again, using a story format helps put the new hire into the picture.
  4. Describe situations outside the job description the new hire would be expected to handle. Give end-result expectations and examples.
  5. After giving a verbal and written description ask for feedback in the form of a summary–not a list or recitation–but a description of how they see the function and their role in making it happen. Ask how they would handle a situation and encourage details about the end results. Listen for any disconnects between their “idea” of the job and the actual expectations of the job. What is not being said is more important than what is being said.
  6. Ask for where they see their biggest challenge in their job. Ask for a strategy for achieving results. Do not let “hopefully, I can…” be an acceptable answer. Hope is not a strategy. Too frequently new hires are skilled at giving the appropriate answers but have no intentions or aptitude for actually doing the function.

Clearly communicating policy, processes and job function is a part of your job if you hire or manage people. Spend more time on this critical message upfront and enjoy fewer misunderstandings in the future.

If you want more tips you can use on the job be sure to get your FREE 6 part audio series by putting your name and email in the boxes to your upper right. Now, pick up a copy of Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work-What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up, for dozens of tips and techniques that can change your life.