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Talk is Cheap – but so valuable

Communication is one area that can always be improved.  Getting the message across to others is what every manager has to do.  Communicating well and consistently is not easy.  You may do a good job of communicating the message out, but you might not do it often enough or to the right people.  Or you may communicate often and to the right people but never seem to connect your words to their understanding.

There are several key things to keep in mind when trying to get your message out.  Talk may be cheap, but the value of a good communication process can not be overstated.

Lets take a look at verbal communication

Get to the point.

Bottom Line Up Front – BLUF – I have heard it put this way.  Get to the point of the conversation.  Let people know what you are going to talk about and then add more info as you see their interest wax and wane.  This is one that annoys me a lot.  I will admit that after two or three sentences, I want to know what the purpose is for  the conversation.  Get it out there.  Peoples minds will wander when someone babbles on with more info than what is needed.

Don’t ask undefined questions.

Don’t start a conversation that causes the other person to be defensive out of the gate.  “Do you have some spare time?”  “Would you be willing to help me out?” “Are you busy at 3:00pm?”  These kinds of questions immediately put the other person on the defensive.  The usual answer will be “Why?”.  People do not want to commit to doing something or offering their time if they do not know what is involved.  Better to say “Do you have some spare time to help me with the report that is due in 2 hours?”

Ask them to repeat what you said.

This is kind of tough and can appear insulting.  When passing on instructions to others, some have given advice that includes having the person repeat the instructions you gave.  They would respond with “You told me to reformat the hard drive, reinstall the software and configure the printer.” This might work for subordinates or your kids, but not for peers and others.  I never ask them directly what I said, but ask them to confirm my summary of the conversation.    “The delivery is coming in early next week and you should see your new laptop after we prep it – so about 2 days later (just in case) – sound good?”  “The CAD Software will be installed on your machine next Tuesday – that will work for you right?”

Confirm what they said to you.

Just like the above only now you are confirming what they said.  “So you will be there at 2:00 pm with the laptop and projector – right?”  “So the next step in my plan is to seek advice from Sr. management and you suggested I call Bob – correct?”

Get commitments.

If you are seeking to get someone to assist or provide you with something, then get a commitment before you close the conversation.  Don’t just trail away hoping that they will return to you with an answer.  I usually ask for a commitment at the end.  “Then you will help me – right?”  If the conversation calls for a delay in the commitment, I try to get a deadline for the decision.  “So you will get back to me by next Monday.  Can I call you on Tuesday if I don;t hear from you?”

Avoiding some of the pitfalls of verbal conversations has many more nuances than just the very short list I have above.  Think about how you can get better and try these and others.

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