To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. -Tony Robbins

We are so bombarded on a daily basis with all types of communication.  From phone calls to texts to emails, it feels like an endless stream of communication.  The biggest challenge in all the communications I receive is understanding intent and where the person is coming from. It is so easy to misinterpret or add tone to something being said. The saying “people only hear what they want to hear” comes to mind.

I have recently observed a few interactions where people are hurt or upset because of either something that was said to them or how it was said.  The original intent of the person was somewhere lost in the mix and feelings got in the way.

So how do we make sure we communicate better?  Here are my thoughts:

Clarify or restate the question- if you are not sure what is being asked of you, or you are not sure the other person understood what you were saying, clarify.  Sometimes giving an example or making sure you are on the same page by saying the same thing differently can help.  Many times people don’t understand your intent or you don’t understand theirs and the blanks get filled in on their own often times incorrectly. Clarifying can prevent this.

Let it rest before you hit send- Never text or email mad.  Same goes with responding to a heated situation.  I used to always say (and still do) that I need to wait to respond when I can take the emotion out of it.  This does not apply to friendly passionate debates, but those should be face to face.  Words that are written or spoken cannot easily be taken back.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You might even ask someone else to read your reply before hitting send.

Don’t raise your voice- You always have to love the person in the room who just talks right over you or doesn’t let you get a word in.  The best practice for dealing with someone who is loud or mad is to lower your voice so they have to stop to listen.  This is a great technique with mad customers.  Many people are trained to come out yelling. Watch 5 minutes of Pawn Stars and you will see what I mean.  If it gets too crazy, there is always 911.

Listen- This is probably one of the hardest skills to master.  We are always so quick to want to have input into any conversation which makes listening difficult.  I always have to stop myself from thinking I have the answer before the question is asked.  Stopping to hear what the other person has to say and really listening makes the person you are speaking with feel valued and can keep you from misunderstanding what they say.

Of course, all of these tips are still a work in progress for me and I need to practice what I preach, but I really work on listening and understanding where a person is coming from.  Adding tone or intent never goes well.