Do you really hear what I'm saying?

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by David Greer

What's the best piece of advice you”ve ever received? Can you pick the one that really is the best? There”s the golden rule, other people”s money, follow your heart, find yourself a good lawyer and accountant, spend wisely, don”t get too big for your britches, the customer is always right, the customer is not always right, pay yourself first, be conservative, be aggressive, diversify, dance with the one that brung ya, save for a rainy day, eat more fiber and there are hundreds more where those came from.

I must say there is one piece that has stuck with me through the years, and I”ve found it to be valuable in business and personal situations. Some long-forgotten management guru taught me that no matter what, faulty communication was always the fault of the communicator. No matter how clearly you think you have conveyed your message, if it gets heard incorrectly, misunderstood, wrongly interpreted or just plain ignored, it”s all your fault – if you are the communicator. That”s right. It is always your fault. No exceptions to the rule.

No excuse is necessary. No excuses will be accepted. It”s your fault. Plain and simple – your fault. All yours. Bummer, huh?

At first, I just wouldn”t accept complete responsibility, and the advice didn”t really register. I mean, after all, if I said something clear as day, and the person wasn”t a good listener or dozed off in a meeting or was a daydreamer, then how in the world could that be my fault?

Look at it this way. It”s kind of like a bank deposit. You can put the check in the bank, but until it”s posted and it shows up in your account, you can”t touch it. It has to be validated.

With communication, your job is not complete until you can verify the information was accurately transferred. Only then can you relinquish responsibility for it. You have to make sure to do the job completely and validate your deposit was made.

The trick is to always close the loop on what you think you are communicating by simply asking the recipient of your message to verify what they think they heard. Say things like, "I”m not sure I”m communicating clearly, can you tell me what you think you heard?" or "We”ve covered a lot of material this morning, can you summarize what you”re taking away from our discussion?"

If what you hear back isn”t exactly what you meant, then try another approach and keep getting verification each step of the way until your points come across the way you intended. Always keep in mind that if you don”t hear the right validation, it”s your responsibility to change the approach until you get the appropriate response. The key here is that you own it – not the listener.

Your mindset on who owns the responsibility is the key. The validation becomes your indicator of when the job is done, and if you don”t do that step you”ll suffer at your own peril.

I”d be willing to bet communication, or lack thereof, is one of the most pervasive problems in organizations big and small. That”s why this advice registers among the best for me. It”s a little agitating to accept at first, and I can”t claim I follow the advice all the time, but I can say the rewards are plenty when I do.

Give it a try and let me know how it works. In the meantime, can you take a minute and send me a note on what you think I said?

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