Communicating to Be Understood

Do you ever find yourself approaching the end of a meeting, uncertain if anyone has listened to what you just said? Often we can feel the essential points we set out to discuss with our teams are lost. But how can we be sure what we are communicating is being understood, let alone heard?

Communication is the key to many things in life. It is the key to understanding each other, staying on task, working with a team and, ultimately, achieving success. Communication is also the key to effective leadership. But many leaders speak often — without being heard. We can also be so used to speaking the same way that we fail to see other ways that might allow our words to be actively received.   

When we communicate poorly, we become white noise. But when we deliver our message effectively, we can bring change, clarity and unity. To be sure people hear us, we need to be certain we are communicating well.

Here are four ways to communicate to be understood:

  1. Don’t overwhelm the listener. When you approach a meeting with something specific to say, prioritize just a few points. You may have several things you want to discuss or work through, but gauge your audience and determine what is most essential.
  2. Keep it clear and concise. Stay to the point, and don’t draw it out longer than necessary. Be selective with what you discuss. There is no need to drown out your main ideas with several other points. Sometimes the fewest words can have the greatest impact.
  3. Be strategic but emotionally intelligent. Before the conversation, think through how and when you will communicate your words. But also remember who you are communicating to. Be sure not to dive into the negative or positive points without learning how to ease into the conversation. Yes, you want to be tactical with what you say, but you also want to remain conscious of the individual you are speaking with. If you go straight in with a critique, it can be hard for someone to hear the positive comments that follow.
  4. Try the “Now, what did you just hear me say?” method. Try the practice of asking your employees what they just heard. It doesn’t have to be condescending, but ask that individual what they took from the words you said. You may be surprised. When you ask for feedback from the conversation, you may find that the listener has come to more profound conclusions or realizations than you even intended. Regardless, this approach allows room for dialogue and discussion after you’ve stated your points.

Most of us would like to think that when we talk, people listen no matter what. But the details of our delivery, the atmosphere, the current climate of a workplace and the very individuals we are addressing all influence how our words are received. To lead effectively, we must communicate articulately and efficiently.

Once you have refined the art of communicating to be understood, you can begin utilizing communication as the influential tool it is.