“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”– George Bernard Shaw
“mokusatsu” – a Japanese term translated “We are treating your message with contempt.” This was the answer given to President Truman when Japan was asked if they would surrender during World War II. Ultimately, America’s response was the dropping of two atomic bombs. This is the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used in war…
Trouble is, “mokusatsu” is more accurately translated to English as “We withhold comment – pending discussion.”
Could better communication have avoided such massive destruction? The world will never know. While most misunderstandings do not result in nuclear fallout, they do lead to many avoidable pitfalls in life. Think of all the times at work, home and in your community that clarity would have saved the situation.
A Bad Habit
The true professional teachers, lecturers, conversationalists and salespeople have learned one important skill – don’t talk at people, talk with them. We’ve all in been in a situation when a person is telling us something and it’s abundantly clear the speaker does not have any intention of listening to their audience. They have a message to send and they mistakenly assume the person just gets it. Regardless of their reasoning, they are butchering the conversation by ignoring important cues of the person they are speaking with.
It is important to understand if the audience is picking up on your message. In groups or crowds this is easier to see, people who are uninterested will play on phones, talk to one another, and not participate in discussion. In one-on-one scenarios, listen and look for body language and facial expressions that can signal what the person is thinking. Most people will avoid expressing their true thoughts to avoid seeming incompetent, confused, irrational, or defensive.
By listening to the audience, you’ve taken one major step forward to improve your communication skills. Next is to refine your message.
Here are a few tips to avoid communication problems:
- Define – Explicitly clarify what you mean by stating the same thing different ways. If the message is not coming across clearly, give an applicable example or scenario to give the message context.
- Parrot – Ask your audience to repeat the takeaways. This simple step almost always highlights discrepancies and misunderstandings that made their way into the conversation.
- Document – Sending a follow-up note outlining major points and action items will prompt further discussion on any items left unclear.
Make it a habit to follow these guidelines to avoid unnecessary delays and disappointments. Not only will your operations run more smoothly, this practice will prove extremely valuable when negotiating terms for your future funding opportunities.