I am standing at a “laptop bar” in the Orlando Airport, and I am working quickly to post this thought before my plane boards for Indianapolis. I may have actually written this before. I'm in a hurry. I don't really have time to check my archive. So, at the risk of repeating myself, I'm posting this thought because it is so important.
When you communicate with another person, avoid the trap of assuming that you understand them or that they understand you. Push for absolute clarity. To do that, I recommend that you master the use of two questions:
- When you want to ensure that you understand correctly, ask the following question – “Can I repeat back to you what I heard yoou say so that I can make sure I understood correctly?”
- When you want to ensure that you have been understood, ask this – “Just to make sure that I communicated clearly, could you repeat back to me what you heard me say?”
You can ask these questions in many different ways if you remember this key point: whatever words you use, make sure that you take responsibility for any misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Asking the right question allows you to engage in dialogue (rather than mutual monologue) with the other person so that you minimize the chance of a miscommunication. Taking responsibility for any miscommunication reduces the risk that they will be offended by the question.
Guy Harris, The Recovering Engineer