The meeting with your boss just started, but you are already wondering if you are communicating the issues correctly. You lay out all of the facts. She seems a bit distracted as
her phone keeps chirping, but you know the topic is important. As you make your case and explain all of the details, you get the sneaking feeling that your words are falling on closed ears.
How do you really know?
Over the years, I’ve used a simple technique to find out if someone is listening. It’s not complicated, and it can work in meetings, interviews, just about any discussion. Of course, it
also works in casual settings and when you are not at work.
The trick is to ask the person if they know what you are saying.
It’s essentially a way to find out if they can summarize what you said.
It works like this.
Let’s say you are talking with your boss about those work issues. Start by explaining some of the details: The accounting department developed a process that doesn’t work for most of the other departments and you have some new ideas on how to resolve that. You explain them one by one, then pause and ask your boss — so what do you think of these ideas?
Too often, we skip that step. We view communication as a firehose of information. We spray and pray, hoping the listener understands our monologue. That’s a big mistake. Instead, we
should cover topics one by one and then wait for a response. This has to be more than nodding or a verbal agreement. In any conversation, ask direct questions about what you said, even if you are talking to your boss or even during an interview. You might ask: Which of these ideas do you like best? Or, is there something I’ve said that you disagree with so far?
It’s a litmus test for listeners
You’re asking them for feedback midstream, making sure they have processed what you’ve said so far. In a discussion about a new construction project, for example, you can explain the plans for one of the new spaces, and then ask a series of questions about those plans. If you merely rattle them off, you have no idea if the person who is listening understands what you want to do, and you have no idea if there will be objections later.
The secret here is to make this all part of the flow of the conversation. It has to be seamless and not awkward. It’s easy to give a speech. It’s much harder to pause, get feedback, and then pick up where you left off again without skipping a beat. It might even require practice.
Being clued into whether someone is listening also helps you become a better listener yourself. You can think about the signals you are giving people, and be ready to summarize what they say and offer new insight. Too often, we wait to add our own two cents, but conversations that are more collaborative in nature lead to better results and better business decisions.
You might not even realize that cooperative discussions like the ones I’m describing are what leads to brilliant new products, incredible market opportunities, and even higher sales.
The benefit is clear. Your conversation will lead to better results. You won’t have to reiterate what you said, repeat anything, or get further clarification. Projects will run smoother, and you will be more efficient in completing tasks. You’ll break the cycle of miscommunication.