Friday, 24 June 2011

Clarity in Communication

This week there have been lots of lessons learnt by me about clarity in communication.  Normally it is relatively easy for me to be clear on paper.  I draft letters and documents and read them and re-read them.  I try to keep my sentences short, and check for ambiguity or a different interpretation that could be put across.  I think this habit has influenced my thought process in verbal communications - because I know it is so easy to say something that could be misinterpreted, I end up not saying much at all!  My valuable lesson this week, is that appearing to be listening  (and processing) what is being said, and then not saying much in response can indicate or give the appearance of agreement.  Or, something that frustrates my husband even more, that I don't give a hoot about what he's just said to me.  I have actually internalised and in my mind I have answered.  Verbalising the answer doesn't immediately come.  The danger in this is that because there is no immediate response, the other person will have made an assumption - their interpretation is more than likely to be what they think they want to hear.  When there is no disagreement, is the only other option agreement?  This must be how 'about faces' happen-  when there is that difference between the thoughts finally verbalised, and the misinterpretation that has already taken place.   Can you hear my husband's plaintive cry -" I thought you weren't bothered... that's why I said we would go round to Auntie Maude's!" whereas in my mind I had been thinking - 'no I don't mind going as long as I've got the washing done first and I don't have to play charades'.
It is strange I think, that I have never before equated the written need to be specific,  eg: as in I would 'categorically deny.. eg.. that there has been discrimination' and the lawyerly distinction between 'deny'  and 'make no admission'  to a similar requirement in verbal communications.  I should be able to verbally say whether I disagree ( ie deny) or I neither agree nor disagree ( ie, make no admission).  The trick I have learnt, for those of you who reflect and internalise like I do, is to buy yourself more time- questions like "that's interesting -how have you come to that conclusion?" , not only gets you more information but buys you the time to think about your verbal response.  I still think it is frightening though- because words said can never be unsaid!  It is important though to realise that words unsaid can still communicate- but not as clear a message as words that are said. So bosses, can you spot the ones that internalise and who are communicating with you by not saying much?