Words Matter – 3 Tips to Avoid Communication Problems
Words Matter – 3 Tips to Avoid Communication Problems

Words Matter – 3 Tips to Avoid Communication Problems

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

Mokusatsu” is a Japanese term that translates to, “We are treating your message with contempt.” This was the answer Japan gave to President Truman when he asked if they would surrender during World War II. Ultimately, America’s response was to drop two atomic bombs. This is the first and only time nuclear weapons have been used in war…

Trouble is, “mokusatsu” is more accurately translated to English as “We withhold comment – pending discussion.”

Could such massive destruction and death have been avoided with better communication? The world will never know. While most misunderstandings in life do not result in nuclear fallout, they do lead to many avoidable pitfalls. Think of all the times that clarity would have saved a situation at work, home or in your community.

A Bad Habit

True professional teachers, lecturers, conversationalists and salespeople have learned one important skill – don’t talk at people, talk with people. We’ve all been in a situation where it’s abundantly clear the speaker does not have any intention of listening to their audience. They have a message to send and they mistakenly assume the listener just gets it. Regardless of their reasoning, the speaker is butchering the conversation by ignoring important cues of the listener.

It is important to understand if the audience is picking up on your message or not. In groups or crowds this is easier to see- uninterested people will play on phones, talk to one another, and not participate in discussion. In one-on-one scenarios, listen and look for body language and facial expressions that can signal what the listener is thinking. Most people avoid expressing their true thoughts to avoid seeming incompetent, confused, irrational, or defensive.

By listening to the audience, you’ve taken one major step towards improving your communication skills. The next step is to refine your message.

3 Tips to Avoid Communication Problems:

  1. Define – Explicitly clarify what you mean by stating the same thing different ways. If the message is not coming across clearly, give an applicable example or scenario to add context to your message.
  2. Parrot – Ask your audience to repeat the takeaways. This simple step almost always highlights discrepancies and misunderstandings that made their way into the conversation.
  3. Document – Sending a follow-up note outlining major points and action items will prompt further discussion on any items left unclear.

Make it a habit to follow these guidelines to avoid unnecessary delays and disappointments. Not only will your operations run more smoothly, this practice will prove extremely valuable when negotiating terms for your future opportunities.