Whenever we are with other people, whether we are at work, attending a board meeting, on a date, answering questions at a job interview, or playing with our children, we communicate. It is impossible not to communicate. Sometimes we communicate with the way we act, the way we move, our body language, and probably most of the time with our words. We talk, we ask, we answer, we explain.
Being able to communicate accurately and get the meaning of what we are saying across to the other person is so important in everything we do. We have to make sure we do it right. How do we do that? John Maxwell makes a really good point when he says. “In the end, people are persuaded not by what we say, but by what they understand.” It is not how we understand what we are saying that is the true meaning of our words. The true meaning is determined by how it is understood by others. In the end it is only their understanding and interpretation of what we way that will persuade or influence them one way or the other. If we could just remember this, it would be so much easier to avoid misunderstandings. Imagine what it would be like if people always understood each other. So many mistakes, problems, delays and even hurt feelings would be avoided.
Here is something you can try out with a friend to help understand this principle. Ask them to think of a song. Then ask then to clap to that song without singing it, while you try to guess which song they are clapping to. They already know which song it is, and to them it seems quite easy to guess. For you on the other hand, you don’t know what they are thinking of, and most likely you will not be able to guess correctly. Some people call this the curse of knowledge. When we already know something, it is very difficult to comprehend what it would be like to be without that information.
We assume others understand us, but often they don’t. How can we change that? What can we do to make sure the correct meaning is passed on through what we say? One solution is to make sure we connect, not just communicate. If we care about the other person, if we value them, and try to put ourselves in the listener’s shoes, we’re already more than half way there. Then, get their interest, be genuine, and keep it simple. Happy communicating!