March 23, 2013

Effective Communication Is Not Talking

effective communicationTalking is not effective communication.  Neither is sending an email.

Effective communication is making sure you are understood.

I learned this when I took flying lessons.  If you don’t communicate well when you fly a plane you might kill others or kill yourself.

Pilots use a special system to make sure their messages are understood by other pilots and the airport tower.  They always repeat the message back so the other party is 100% certain they understand the message.

If you are in two-seat Cessna plane with the tail number 352 and the tower tells you to descend to 1,000 meters and turn to 210 degrees heading you will answer like this: “Airport Tower this is Cessna 352, descend to 1,000 meters and turn to heading 210 degrees, roger.”  That way the Tower KNOWS you have received and understood their instructions.

This is a great habit to follow in business.

Never assume that someone understands what you say.  Ask him to repeat the message back to you.

For example, after reviewing an assignment with someone on your team you should ask them to restate the assignment.  When you start doing this you’ll be surprised at how often your people didn’t understand your meaning even if they said they did.

Another great use of this technique is to ask job candidates what their understanding of the job is when you begin the interview.  That way you can check if they read the job description carefully.  If they didn’t read the job description carefully you shouldn’t even consider hiring them.

On the flip side, get into the habit of repeating your understanding of what was said.  This is especially effective in sales — it will show your customer that you understand them and care about them.  I usually put it like this, “Let me make sure I understand…”  Then I restate the problem or summarize the actions we’ve agreed on.

When someone sends you an email always respond so they know you received the email.  A simple response is “Received and understood.”  If it’s a meeting, repeat back the meeting details: “Great.  See you at 12pm next Wedesday 27 March at Highlands Coffee at the intersection of Dinh Tien Hoang and Nguyen Dinh Chieu.”  That way the other person KNOWS you are both on the same page.

Try it today!