Growing up I always strive to understand fully what someone is saying and try to make sure I fully convey the ideas I have to someone else. It is always at varying degrees of success. I tend to be a visual learner and did better in a class where all the information for a class was written down in a book, rather than verbal memory. Some people can speak verbally beautifully, but I have never been one of those people. I felt a need to analyze different situations and try to understand how I could get better at the art of communication. Overtime as I have worked in different professional settings and general life experiences. I have noticed that the art of being understood, doesn’t always make you sound intelligent and often makes you say things not as they are written. Here are a few experiences that have taught me how to be understood.
I use to love getting a sandwich on my way home from work. It was quick and later in the day between lunch and supper so not many people where there while I stood in line. Always interesting people in line from all walks of life. All in all…not a bad way to end my day. Then I would get up to the sandwich maker and tell them what type of bread I wanted. I loved getting the “Italian Herbs and Cheese bread” and that is how they describe the bread on the menu. Yet I would find myself trying to get the sandwich maker’s attention because they would pick up the Italian Bread. This happened several times, before I decided to test a theory. My theory is that people often listen to the first word you say when you are describing something, more than all the rest of the words. In a retail situation the sandwich maker is trying to process your food as quickly as possible…so they are grabbing the information you say first. Plus the fact that it is easier for people to understand the first word of phrase. So I decided to change the order of the words so that I might be understood better. Calling the bread “Cheese Italian”, which shortened the phrase and helped clarify the type of Italian bread I wanted. It worked. I received the bread I wanted without any problem. And started a new routine calling the bread the wrong name, but happily getting exactly what I wanted each time. I did get caught by one of the staff who corrected me on the proper name of the bread, but I shrugged.
While developing a woodworking shop, a division for my family’s lumber/hardware store, I started estimating woodshop projects. I started noticing when one of my co-workers picked-up the phone before passing the customer to me the customer would start talking about their project as if I knew exactly what they said to my co-worker. It is a very delicate situation, because I didn’t want frustrate my customer. Yet you have to get the customer to tell you all the missing information. When this happened I would have to put my patience hat on and make sure I understand what my customer wanted even if I didn’t come across as the most intelligent person having to ask multiple clarifying questions.
Okay so here is my last example…. Parties! Now it depends on the party. But during my college years I would go to some parties that were loud and lots of people. I am traditionally someone who likes to sit down with one person or a small group. I figured out the hard way that you really have to shorten what you say at large parties or even at a work convention. You can likely get 3-4 words out before somebody is going to interrupt you. I can’t even remember exactly what I saying but I just remember my 10 word sentence not sounding right chopped down to 3-4 words. A strange look crossing the face of the person I was talking to as the conversation ending.
I have grown from wanting to sound educated and elegant, to just wanting to make sure the person understands what I am saying. As always I am looking for ways to get better at communicating it is a lifelong journey.