When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five.
If you pare down your job or business — and take away all the extraneous stuff you do — the most important part is COMMUNICATION. Simple, two-way and CLEAR communication. I give you information and I get your response. You tell me to do something and I tell you when I can get it done. I explain the merits of my products and services and you buy. And on and on and on.
Here's the simple fact — it's not as easy as it looks. In fact, some people tend to screw it up most of the time and wonder why they are being listened to or why their people or clients are not doing what they've been told. Do you find yourself saying:
- "They just aren't listening!"
- "Why are my clients checking out?"
- "Why do I tell my team one thing and they do another?"
If you catch yourself saying these and other choice phrases — you might need to tighten up your communication style.
Communication is a very complex process. When you communicate, you need to keep a sharp eye on the person you are communicating to. Why? There are so many signals where you need to modulate your communication to ensure they are understanding what you're saying.
Communication is made up of two competing spheres:
- Facts & Information (F&I) - this is the 'what' of the conversation. And usually where you do a good job of transmitting.
- Emotions & Feelings (E&F) - this is the 'why' of the conversation. And usually where you do a bad job of transmitting.
To communicate effectively, you need to better balance the two. Most of the time, we spend 80-90% of our efforts in F&I and 10-20% in E&F. Unfortunately, in certain situations, you need to increase your E&F — but you don't — and this is where communication breaks down.
Why does this happen? Because communicating facts and information are easy — you just blabber away. Emotions and feelings take a certain amount of restrain — you have to ask questions, listen, and react to the other person's feelings and emotions. And that's hard for most people. It's the EQ (emotional quotient) of the conversation.
The bottom line — if you take the E&F into account and speak to it — your communication success will increase exponentially.
But how do you bridge that gap? Three steps:
1. Bring Them In.
Bring them into the conversation. If you find you are doing all or most of the talking, STOP. Start asking them questions, get their side of the conversation, issue, or situation. Then paraphrase what they said to ensure you are listening correctly, and then ask more questions. We tend to blabber on without a care about the person we are speaking with. One of my favorite phrases to use is "Tell Me More". If that fails . . .
2. Ask Them A Permission Question.
Pause and then ask one of these permission questions:
- May I offer a suggestion . . . ?
- Can we further explore . . . ?
- Would it be alright if . . . ?
- With your permission, can we . . . ?
These permission questions immediately stop the conversation, reverse it, and allow you to better understand what's going on in the head of the person you're speaking with. If that fails . . .
3. Tell Them A Story.
One of the best ways to bridge the gap between Facts & Information and Emotions & Feelings is to tell a related story, example or scenario. It adds weight to the conversation and allows the person to visualize and mentally illustrate what you're talking about.
Each of these steps allows the speaker — YOU — to better communicate, bring the client or team member into the conversation, and hopefully deliver better, faster and more clear communication to whatever you do.
Last week, I covered why communication is so important to business. Speaking with your clients, team, peers and boss are all critical to your success and are usually the nexus of problems when things go awry. See Part One here. If you break down the structure of communication, it really is the transmission of information. You say something, I respond. I say something, you respond.
It's a 'Give & Take' relationship, but sometimes the signal lines can be bad. The wires are compromised. Emotions get in the way.
And this can happen in a millisecond. It's probably happened to you — you are speaking with someone and suddenly — they shut down, they get an angry look on their face, or they bite back with venom. It's all happened to all of us — we chose the wrong word, or focused on the wrong example — and BAM! We get hit right in the nose. And it hurts.
Especially when communicating information. When selling to a prospect, instructing a team member, or speaking with a superior, one needs to be SO careful — here is the architecture of the conversation.
On one end is IDU — I Don't Understand. On the other is YDU — You Don't Understand.
IDU is the state where the person begins to shut down because you are speaking about a subject they don't know or understand. You are talking OVER their head. When it happens, the person starts to feel inferior or incompetent and they shut down.
YDU is the state where the person begins to get angry because YOU don't know or understand their situation. You are talking PAST them. When it happens, the person starts to feel angry or contempt for you — they begin to interrupt or sit and stew with anger.
IDU is on one end of the spectrum and YDU is on the other end. Your job is to remain in the middle with your communication, giving them info while ensuring you don't venture in IDU or YDU territory.
And the way to ensure this doesn't happen is to:
- Watch for physical signals. They might start looking away or looking angry or impatient. They might not respond immediately or come back with a response that sounds frustrated or angry. On the phone, listen for typing or clicking — they are not listening, they are multi-tasking.
- Ask questions along the way. Like: "Are you with me so far?" or "Am I speaking too quickly?" or " Do you want me to review any aspect of what I just covered?" or "Do you know this already?" This gives the receiver a chance to better understand the information and will quickly take you out of the IDU/YDU area.
- Paraphrase their response. When they do respond, paraphrase what you just heard. This will quickly take you out of the YDU end of the spectrum.
Communication is so critical for your success — make sure it is TWO-WAY!