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Say what?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

When I was about 13 years old, I remember an episode of a shopping list going wrong. It was not a very long list, just two items. My mother sent my little brother to the vegetable market near by to bring just two items - a kilo of onions and 250 grams of ginger.

My brother returned a quarter hour later with three onions and a load of ginger. You guessed it. He remembered the items but exchanged the quantities. This is a simple illustration of how communication can go wrong.

Recently, I gave my dress-maker drawings, pictures as well as verbal explanations of how my clothes need to be made. He returned them after 6 weeks, all of them completely different from what I had asked him to make. I had to spend a lot more time to get them back to some semblance of what I wanted.

Communication is simple and yet so complex. One cannot be sure that what one says is what is heard. Between our choice of words, our tone and clarity, coupled with the attention, comprehension, and memory of the recipient there are any number of cracks that communication can fall through.

Here are four lessons I'd like to offer

1. Adjust your communication according to the recipient. For some verbal is good enough, others need additional fortifications - written, illustrated, referenced etc

2. This is important. Make sure they are listening. If you take their attention for granted, don't be surprised with undesirable results.

3. Ensure that the recipient has understood what you want. Ask questions, get them to repeat etc. Not everyone likes this, but if you don't want surprises, accept and work with their discomfort.

4. When the recipient is not with you in person, say is at a distance or is on the phone, adjust your speed of speech, pitch, and tone to make sure they have understood what you are saying. Use gestures if it helps your cause.

image: Photo by fauxels (pixels)

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