If you manage people or projects, it is a common frustration to have to explain things more than once to be understood. While you may think it’s because some people don’t listen properly (which may be partly true), it is also because of the way you are communicating.
To be a more effective communicator, you need to be a chameleon. That is, you need to present a different version of what you want to say, and say it differently, depending on who you are talking to.
If I am a busy person and operate at a fast pace, you need to match this pace and be very clear and succinct with your words. Long emails will not get read by fast paced people, and they generally enjoy a quick face to face chat if you want a decision from them.
While most people try to listen, if their preferred communication style is not the same as yours, then they may not completely understand you. They may have a different way of viewing the world or a different way of processing information or explaining things.
Adapt what you do
Unless you are willing to adapt the way you communicate when you speak and write, it will take longer than it needs to for decisions to be made or for your message to be understood.
There are some very simple ways to address this which will help you make communicating with colleagues less frustrating and much more productive.
1. ‘The Hook’ – what’s in it for them?
If you want to be more effective when you talk to or email colleagues, team members or clients, then take 10 seconds before you start to speak or write to ask yourself the following question.
What is in it for them?
If you speak or write with this thinking, you will be better at clarifying what you need from others and use language that will motivate them to provide the information you are after. For example, if they are the kind of person that loves to be helpful, then you can sometimes start the conversation with ‘Can you please do me a favour?’ If they are a very busy person and do not like long discussions, then you can sometimes start the conversation with ‘Can I please quickly get your thoughts on this idea to save us time when we process invoices?’
Insight: Focus on ‘what’s in it for them’ for best results
2. Emails are not always the answer
Taking the time to construct an easily understood email is sometimes easier than talking directly to someone.
But is it as effective?
Some people prefer to talk about an issue or decision first, and then follow up with an email.
I have colleagues and clients who simply do not respond to emails anymore, but will always be contactable by phone and choose this as their preferred method of communication.
Insight: Adapt your communication method to their preferred approach
3. When Face to Face
Once you’ve considered ‘The Hook’, and if you’ve decided it will be better to speak to the person face to face, assess (before you approach them) if the pace they naturally operate at is fast or more methodical. You can generally work this out by how fast they speak or how quickly they respond to certain tasks.
If they are fast paced and get bored quickly, then limit your conversations to the facts and be clear about what you require from them. If they prefer more of a considered approach, take the time to explain the context of the issue with them and allow them thinking time to give you a decision or express their opinion.
Insight: Adapt your pace to their preferred approach