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Workplace Conversations - 3 Steps to Achieving Clarity

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker

3 Steps to Achieving Clarity in Workplace Conversations

by | Leadership Development

When you were a kid, did you ever make your own telephone using two cans connected by a string?  I sure did — and, much to my delight, that’s what I saw my two kids playing with this past weekend.
/
I got them to observe how the string needed to be taut and unobstructed in order for them to be heard by the person on the other end and, conversely, that when the string was loose and wobbly, they couldn’t hear the other person talking.
/
I talked about the science behind this and I think it actually got a bit of traction with them.  A successful parenting moment that I made a mental checkmark of!
/
They were only able hear each other clearly when the line of communication was focused and direct.
/

/
With workplace conversations, don’t mistake the clear transmission of sound as achieving clarity of understanding — which should always be your goal.
/
And here’s the thing … achieving clarity of understanding is the primary responsibility of the person on the transmitting side, not the receiving side.
/

/

Why Clarity is Important:

/
Simple — you want the other person to fully understand you.
/
If you tell a staff member that the report they’re preparing needs to be clear, you don’t want them to interpret that as “Go and put a fresh toner cartridge in the printer.”
/

What Prevents Clarity:

/
Big picture? Your ego.
/
It’s easy to fall into the (usually-unconscious) trap of believing that everyone else interprets and filters the world around them exactly the same way you do.  They don’t.
/
In all likelihood, the other person is going to receive your information and interpret it through their own filters.
/
Imagine this:  I put one of my kids in the living room, the other one in the kitchen and I get them to close their eyes.  I then hand each of them one end of their homemade telephone; however, they’re not close enough to each other for the string to be taut.  I then ask them to have a conversation.
/
If you’re a parent, I bet you can see where this is going …
/
Not being to able hear each other, they soon get frustrated and both start shouting, “You’re not doing it right!!”  Each of them has assumed the string was taut; believing it did not make it so.
/

What You Can Do to Achieve Clarity:

/

1.  Take on 100% of the responsibility for it.

/
=>  It’s up to you to ensure you are understood.
/
=>  It’s up to you to ensure you understand the other person.
/

2.  Say what you need to say.

/
How you frame and deliver what you need to say is extremely important in order for the other person to feel a particular way about what you’re saying; this is the kind of professional development I help leaders and managers with.
/
AND — you still have to say — with direct, clear language — what you need to say.
/

3.  Check for understanding.

/
You need to further than saying things like, “Does that make sense?” or “Have I been clear?”
/
To really ensure that the other person gets it, you need to say something like this:
/
“I just want to be sure I communicated that fully, John.  What’s your understanding of what I said?”
/
On the flip side, you can paraphrase back to the other person what they’ve said to ensure that you understand what they wanted you do:
/
“I just want to be sure I understand you fully, John.  [paraphrase what they said]  Is that accurate?  Am I missing anything?”
/
Do these 3 things and your conversations will never slip into a game of “broken” telephone!
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day.
/
— Brie

Blog Post

3 Steps to Achieving Clarity in Workplace Conversations

by | Leadership Development

When you were a kid, did you ever make your own telephone using two cans connected by a string?  I sure did — and, much to my delight, that’s what I saw my two kids playing with this past weekend.
/
I got them to observe how the string needed to be taut and unobstructed in order for them to be heard by the person on the other end and, conversely, that when the string was loose and wobbly, they couldn’t hear the other person talking.
/
I talked about the science behind this and I think it actually got a bit of traction with them.  A successful parenting moment that I made a mental checkmark of!
/
They were only able hear each other clearly when the line of communication was focused and direct.
/

/
With workplace conversations, don’t mistake the clear transmission of sound as achieving clarity of understanding — which should always be your goal.
/
And here’s the thing … achieving clarity of understanding is the primary responsibility of the person on the transmitting side, not the receiving side.
/

/

Why Clarity is Important:

/
Simple — you want the other person to fully understand you.
/
If you tell a staff member that the report they’re preparing needs to be clear, you don’t want them to interpret that as “Go and put a fresh toner cartridge in the printer.”
/

What Prevents Clarity:

/
Big picture? Your ego.
/
It’s easy to fall into the (usually-unconscious) trap of believing that everyone else interprets and filters the world around them exactly the same way you do.  They don’t.
/
In all likelihood, the other person is going to receive your information and interpret it through their own filters.
/
Imagine this:  I put one of my kids in the living room, the other one in the kitchen and I get them to close their eyes.  I then hand each of them one end of their homemade telephone; however, they’re not close enough to each other for the string to be taut.  I then ask them to have a conversation.
/
If you’re a parent, I bet you can see where this is going …
/
Not being to able hear each other, they soon get frustrated and both start shouting, “You’re not doing it right!!”  Each of them has assumed the string was taut; believing it did not make it so.
/

What You Can Do to Achieve Clarity:

/

1.  Take on 100% of the responsibility for it.

/
=>  It’s up to you to ensure you are understood.
=>  It’s up to you to ensure you understand the other person.
/

2.  Say what you need to say.

/
How you frame and deliver what you need to say is extremely important in order for the other person to feel a particular way about what you’re saying; this is the kind of professional development I help leaders and managers with.
/
AND — you still have to say — with direct, clear language — what you need to say.
/

3.  Check for understanding.

/
You need to further than saying things like, “Does that make sense?” or “Have I been clear?”
/
To really ensure that the other person gets it, you need to say something like this:
/
“I just want to be sure I communicated that fully, John.  What’s your understanding of what I said?”
/
On the flip side, you can paraphrase back to the other person what they’ve said to ensure that you understand what they wanted you do:
/
“I just want to be sure I understand you fully, John.  [paraphrase what they said]  Is that accurate?  Am I missing anything?”
/
Do these 3 things and your conversations will never slip into a game of “broken” telephone!
/
Have a productive and enjoyable day.
/
— Brie
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