- February 18, 2020
- Posted by: Phillip Van Hooser
- Category: Communication Skills, Leadership, Leadership Development
“You Know What I Mean…” The Assumption That Hurts Communication
“While I didn’t actually explain that, I’m sure you know what I mean…”
How many times have you heard something like that statement? More importantly, how many times have you said or thought it? Unless you’re communicating with a certified mind reader, believing a person will know what you mean without making the effort to tell them is the same as believing you will win the lottery. It could happen — but unfortunately, it seldom does.
You Know What They Say About Assuming…
Let’s be clear. Assumptions are the mark of a careless communicator. “To assume” something provides evidence that a person hasn’t taken time to ask, verify and evaluate. Besides that, people who deal in unverified assumptions leave themselves open to a myriad of communication disconnects and breakdowns.
It’s never a question if making assumptions will get us into trouble. The real questions are: When will the troubles begin? Where might they crop up? With whom will we have problems? And how much will our errant assumptions actually cost in time, dollars and goodwill?
We should never believe “you know what I mean.” When communicating, we might think avoiding unnecessary explanations up front will save us time in the process. When in actuality, sooner or later, we have to explain the process anyway — what we did, how it was done and why we did it.
If the process is explained before action is taken, most people are still open to listening. However, if explanations are offered after action has been taken, many people will already be frustrated by what they see as our insufficient communication approach.
Explaining the Process Helps Us Communicate Better
Failure to communicate doesn’t have to happen. It can be avoided by purposefully explaining the process that is to follow. So what are we really trying to do when we “explain the process?”
Understand Your Objective
Understanding how to explain the process begins with understanding your overall communication objectives. The communication we undertake may focus on one or more of these objectives. But knowing what our objectives are before we begin lessens the chances we will fail in our communication efforts.
Is the objective to:
- Convey: You are the messenger or conduit through which information passes.
- Request: You are asking for something specific.
- Educate: You are providing information to prove the value of a concept, idea or activity.
- Defend: You are supporting a position on which you stand.
- Question: You are seeking information.
- Confirm: You are working to erase doubt and confusion.
What Others Sense
Communicating the process is not only a verbal experience, it is also sensory in nature. Many people pride themselves on their ability to “read” others. While other people analyze their “gut feel” regarding messages they receive. But to ensure the process is communicated effectively, take into consideration what others can sense from our words and the manner in which we deliver them.
- How we feel: Are you excited, embarrassed, desperate, disgusted? Our words and our delivery give indication of all these and more.
- If we like them or not: Words and demeanor can create connection or cause a chilling effect on relationships.
- If we’re glad to be there: Do our words and non-verbal cues ring with authenticity or seem less than genuine?
- If we’re lying: Most of us, thankfully, haven’t developed the ability to lie with the same non-verbal effect as telling the truth.
- If we’re sincere: Sincerity is hard to fake. Forced words and overplayed actions are easier to spot that we may think.
Common Questions People Will Have
Many of us are suspicious by nature — you know what I mean… When someone starts explaining the process to us, we start trying to read between the lines. So until we have acceptable answers to questions that concern us, we won’t be able to fully accept the “process” as legitimate.
With that in mind, here are some common questions people have — questions to anticipate and prepare to answer when explaining the process.
- Is this really going to do any good?
- Is it possible that I could be hurt as a result of what happens?
- Should I get involved personally or just wait to see what happens?
- What is the real motivation behind what I am seeing and hearing?
- Will this have a negative effect on my relationship with ______________?
- Will this cause more problems than it is worth?
Communicating effectively is hard and has far-reaching implications on our ability to lead.
If you’re struggling with so-so communication skills,“We Need to Talk: Building Trust When Communicating Gets Critical” has the help you need to build solid relationships when results are riding on your abilities.
Get a copy today and get started being a better communicator!
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