By Pedro Anes, Ph.D. (c)
For many people, perception is reality. Unfortunately, perception is perhaps the greatest detriment to getting your intended message across. Every day we communicate with people who, through their own set of life experiences, personality and attitudes, seem to never understand what we are trying to communicate to them. Take lip-syncing Lucy, who moves her lips while you’re talking. She spends all her time trying to finish your sentence just so she can turn it into her own story. How about “Know-it-all Norton”, who corrects every word and idea you have because he “tried that a thousand times before”. And let’s not forget “Naysayer Nellie”, who shoots down every idea because “that will never work”. Frustrating, yes?
Well, there’s good news. There is hope. If you want to get from perception to reality, you will need to apply a fundamental principle of effective communication called suspending judgment. This principle is simple yet difficult to apply. It requires the self discipline to respect a frame of reference different from yours, without marginalizing or ridiculing the person who holds that viewpoint.
Here are 10 steps to follow:
1. Listen for the message: Truly suspend judgment. Listen for the: who, what, where, when, why and how in the message.
2. Give Attention to: Show interest (eye contact, facial responses, body posture)
3. Acknowledge: Use brief phrases that encourage the listener to talk. (“Uh huh…” “Go on…”)
4. Specificity, Concrete Feedback: Describe recent, changeable behavior with examples. (“When you presented only your successes at the planning session, it seemed like boasting, because we were also asked to identify issues to resolve.”)
5. Paraphrase: Repeat what you hear the other person say. (“Oh, so you interpreted the request for ‘issues’ in a different way than I did.”)
6. Think Emotional Intelligence: Describe what the other person appears to be feeling. (“You seem concerned about what I just said.”)
7. Open-Ended Probing: Encourage the other person to describe or amplify vs. “Yes” or “No.” (“How else might we approach this?”)
8. Encourage the Heart: Give credit to the other person’s ideas and build on them. (“I like your idea about touching base before the next meeting. Let’s match our travel schedules so we don’t forget.”)
9. Constructive Criticism: Express agreement with a partial truth, possibility or principle, and then probe. (“Perhaps I could have given you more support in the meeting. What did you have in mind?”)
10. Be Authentic: Reflect your own thoughts and feelings in a way that builds a partnership. (“We haven’t been working very well together and I’d like to change that. Let’s have lunch and talk about it.”)