Would you choose to build your house on sand or on a rock? Since sand shifts and erodes, it’s clearly the rock that would provide a solid and predictable foundation.
Building on a rock won’t eliminate issues such as wind, rain and storms, but in most cases, your well-built house will withstand the elements.
In much the same way, a relationship based on a foundation of trust and consistency can also withstand and recover from storms of misunderstandings, disagreements and confusion.
Because mind reading is not possible, we need to rely on and learn how to communicate clearly and concisely with words and actions that are congruent and devoid of discrepancies or conflicting messages.
Also critical to a clear message that gains trust is the alignment of words, non-verbal cues and actions. Said another way — Do what you say! Trust, respect and credibility are earned by consistent congruence between words and actions over time.
All too often, however, what you communicate to someone is not necessarily what they “hear.” While you may know what you meant, the other person may have understood something different. It is, therefore, incumbent upon you to verify that a listener received your intended meaning. And, the best way to do that? Ask the listener to restate what they understood in their own words.
Sad to say, most of us do not confirm our understanding of messages. Rather, we often tend to assume shared meanings of words and an approximation of the information conveyed.
Understanding is the purpose of communication! And so, the speaker and listener should mutually engage to reach common ground as a basis for discussion. Agreement is not required, but acknowledgment of another’s perspective is.
A little negotiating may be needed in order for each person to be clear about the essence of the issue or the topic, the objective facts, or even the purpose of the talk. The main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing — have only one conversation at a time. Stay focused and on track. An attitude of openness, good will and a desire to learn is needed for successful communication.
Tips for rock-solid communication
- Talk about one issue at a time.
- Be clear about the specific outcome you seek.
- As a listener, paraphrase the speaker’s message.
- As a speaker, ask what meaning has been understood.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- When things don’t add up, clarify.
- Notice whether non-verbal cues match words.
- Be present; give your complete attention.
- Do not react; think before you respond.
- Be honest. Be authentic. Be yourself.
A sign on an office door in a neighborhood church reads,
For anyone who has children and doesn’t know it, there is a childcare center on the first floor.
You see the problem? Even though this sign is kind of funny, the message is not clear and does not inspire confidence.
As a speaker, be clear about your meaning. Then, stand in the listener’s shoes to imagine how your message will be received.
Build your relationships on a solid foundation of clear, credible communication that will earn trust — a priceless commodity.