There must be some kind of mistake,” (Genesis – it was a band, for you youngsters – from their 1980 hit). Whether you’re a GenY or Baby Boomer, you’ve experienced the frustrations of misunderstandings in communication.

We often refer to miscommunication here at Humanergy as “Meet Me In Detroit.” If you wanted to get together with someone and said, “I’ll meet you in Detroit,” that wouldn’t quite work. Yet we take the same kinds of communication shortcuts all the time and assume that people will figure it out.

It can be tempting to throw in the towel – to give up on clear communication, since we mess up so often. And just vowing to do a better job next time doesn’t work. (Been there, done that.) So if we can’t wish our way into better communication, what can we do?

Change your definition of communication. The outcome you’re looking for isn’t communication, it’s mutual understanding. When Person A and Person B share the same “picture” of the message, that’s success!

Individualize. Think about the listener’s perspective before you speak. Ask, “How does she need to hear this?” or “What examples would help him understand?”

Share context. Too often we skip important background information that helps the listener truly understand. Instead of, “I need that report,” try, “The quarterly budget report is shared with management and will help us prioritize for next fiscal year.”

Make it unmistakable. Use short sentences and simple words. Make sure it’s crystal clear why you’re sharing the information. Does the listener need to act on it in some way?

Close the loop. After you’ve spoken, ask the listener to summarize what was heard in his or her own words. Don’t ask, “Did you understand?,” because no one wants to admit they don’t get it. If the listener’s summary is off, share more back and forth until you have mutual understanding.

Freeman Teague, Jr. said, “Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.” We’d like to believe that nothing is so simple that it doesn’t warrant mutual understanding.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!