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Do People Understand What You're Saying?

by Susan Leigh

posted in Relationships

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I received an interesting lesson this morning. A dear friend was explaining the various options that were open to me to remedy a paint repair problem on my car, a job that she's very familiar with. As she explained the various options I realised that I didn't fully understand the implications of what she was saying or even what was involved in each of the choices.
It got me to thinking about those everyday situations, the times when we explain something that we're familiar with to others. We might know what we're talking about but do people understand what we're saying?
Let's look at ways to help people understand what you're saying;
- When we're keen to give advice, explain something or are simply enthusiastic about telling a story it's easy to become excitable, talk quickly or become a little unclear in our desire to get our message out. We may use big words, miss out crucial information, or assume people are keeping up with our train of thought. The problem with this is that the listener go along with this assumption as they may not want to appear ungracious, lacking in intelligence or unable to comprehend what it is we're saying.
- One way to help other people understand what we're saying is to maintain a two-way conversation rather than deliver a monologue or 'speech'. That way each stage of the discussion flows better by being inclusive. By listening, asking questions and responding to what's being said there's a better chance of everyone involved understanding and being on board.
- Another tip is to avoid technical or complicated words and phrases. Yes, it may be necessary to use some words or phrases to establish credibility or to teach certain terminology. If this doesn't apply be wary of over-complicating matters. You may want to impress others by looking knowledgeable and intelligent but if your goal is to share information and deliver an important message it has to be done in a respectful, non-condescending way. People stop listening if they feel intimidated or that they're being talked down to.
- Say things in different ways by rephrasing them. It's not difficult to say things more than once; yes, use the big words but then repeat the sentence, offering alternative interpretations of what you've said. We often do this automatically in daily conversations, when we make our stories more colourful or don't want to simply deliver a factual update on a matter. Being clear early on saves us having to resolve any future misunderstandings or clear up mistakes at a later date.
- Pay attention to the other person's body language. It's often apparent that someone hasn't fully grasped what we're saying by their responses. They may tense up, mumble agreement, look away, sigh, but there are often clues that someone is unclear or uneasy about what they've heard. And if we continue, oblivious to their lack of understanding, they may compound the problem by switching off or disengaging completely.
- Maintain the other person's interest and attention by asking for feedback or their opinion on what you've said. A simple 'how do you feel' or 'what do you think of that?' often allows for an easy and respectful way to further confirm or clarify your message.
Keep in mind that communication is a two-way exchange; constructive communication allows time and space for everyone to be on board and understand what's been said.
About the Author: Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief, with couples experiencing relationship difficulties to improve communications and understanding and with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.
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