“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said”. I came across this quote by Peter Drucker. It made me stop and think about what we think we hear and what we miss that was not spoken.
Try this next time you interact with someone face-to-face: watch their eye movement, look at their body position and see if their face changes to convey a different meaning then the choice of words they are using.
There are times when you just do not understand where the other person is coming from. You seem to get along, feel like you are on the same page and walk away thinking it was a good conversation. Little do you realize, when you continue the dialogue, you feel like you really missed something. Does this ever happen to you?
Besides observing the other person closer and effectively listening with your full attention (multi-tasking on your phone is NOT listening), you can ask more questions. This can be painful at times, however, how else can you be certain you heard everything that was not said?
Ask someone how they are doing and they reply good, fine, steady as she goes or fantastic. Besides the politeness of the greeting, when you do want to know, ask another question. You can say that is great you are having a good day and ask why you are having a good day? Watch their reaction because some will not even realize what they replied! So that brings back to what are people not saying?
Repeating back in our own words to show you understand or not understand is another way to hear what is not being said. Have you had someone say “well what I really meant to say” and some will just blurt it out “I was actually just being polite, but now that you asked.” STOP. Go back a read that blurt out again. Sometimes it takes three to five “poking questions” to get to the root of what is not being said. I do not think I have made it to questions six yet and usually have it on the second or third question.
I recall meeting with an associate who called “out of the blue” to have lunch. We sat down and I asked what news he brought from his end of town and he replied with he had no news. He was bursting to share some news so instead of diving into my stuff, I said glad to have lunch and asked how he was doing in his business. The next words out of his mouth were “Well since you asked, I will share with you I sold my business”. You probably guessed it – that was the whole reason for lunch. So why not just say it!
Communication is a bit more challenging over the phone, and more so with e-mail and texting of course! Lot so guessing and missing more of what is not shared over what is being shared. Be clear, concise, avoid negativity and emotions. Remember, e-mail and texts do not have emotions. I repeat, e-mail and texts do not have emotions. Even the smiley face and sarcastic remarks with smiley faces. What is the person not saying when they do this?
Observe, repeat, ask questions, if applicable, take notes, send minutes of meetings including action items, pick up the phone when an e-mail or text look like they are going the wrong direction.
Some people communicate straight to the point by sending an e-mail or text with a simple message: “call my cell”. It works, enables better communication, saves time and significantly reduces misunderstanding.