How often do you say something and get the response you weren’t expecting? When you are misunderstood or misinterpreted – do you go with it or correct the person?
Being an immigrant – miscommunication happens more frequently than is typical. I say one thing that means something in South Africa, but it’s interpreted as something else here. Or I say something and because I have an accent, people think I’m saying something else. My name is a good example; you’d think the name Debbi would be easy. You’re wrong. When I speak to people on the phone and give my name, somehow they hear Bibi, Becky, DeeDee but never Debbi. The best was the other day someone thought I said David (which coincidentally happens to be my husband’s name)! If there are no long-term repercussions, I sometimes just go with it – it’s often easier that way. Sometimes trying to correct people makes things worse, so I typically take it on a case-by-case basis.
Over the years, I have learnt to continually make adjustments and evaluate the effectiveness of how I communicate. For example, I often say Debra instead of Debbi.
Below are some tips that I’ve learnt to apply in my own business, to make sure that I’m communicating clearly. Effective communication is a critical tool in any business, so it’s important to make sure you’re doing it well.
- Listen effectively. This will help give you clues as to whether/not the person understands what you’re saying.
- Listen to your gut – if you don’t get the response you expected, it’s often because they’ve misinterpreted what you’re saying. Make a joke of it and clarify what you meant to say.
- Take responsibility for miscommunicating so that you can improve, i.e. don’t always assume that it was the other person who didn’t communicate properly.
- Make eye contact and look at the person’s face and reaction as you’re speaking, to ensure that they’re “with” you.
- Speak slower than you would normally, especially if you are giving presentations.
- Assume that if you don’t get an appropriate answer, you’ve probably been misunderstood.
- If you have any inkling that you’re being misunderstood, simply ask the person if they understand what you’re saying.
- If you’re on the phone, ask if you can follow up with an email to clarify that you’re on the same page.
- Don’t take it personally if they misinterpret what you’ve said.
- Lastly, it’s fine to let some things slide if there are no long-term effects!
Image credit: by Daniel Zana, via flickr.com.