Tip of the Week
Tip: Be clear – and then some!
One of the most significant truths that I have ever learned in life is the importance of being clear. What I find most often is that people think they are clear when they really are not clear at all and this lack of clarity can create barriers in relationships and business endeavors. There is nothing more difficult than trying to help someone see something that they cannot see. I learned early to recognize the fact that I may not be clear, even if I think I am being clear. Therefore, here are a couple of suggestions I have learned to use to help me along the way.
Whenever I am in a group meeting and someone says something that I do not understand, I say to another person, “I am so sorry, and it is my fault, but I am not 100% sure I understood what they just said. Could you please explain it to me in your own words to help me better understand?” That gives another person the opportunity to re-phrase what the first person said. Then I ask the first person if that was what they were trying to say so that they can have the opportunity to bring more clarity to what was originally communicated. I am not trying to “trap” anyone – I am trying to avoid confusion for the entire team. It always brings clarity!
You may think this is going overboard, but the question begs to be answered, “If you do not have enough time to do things right the first time, how will you have time to do them all over again the second time?”
Not too long ago I saw a woman with four children in a restaurant. The children were playing with each other and she told them to go sit in the booth while she got their food. They continued to play so she said in a louder voice, “I said, go sit in the booth!” They appeared to ignore her and I could tell she was losing her patience. Finally, she said “GO SIT IN THE BOOTH!!” One of the little boys then asked, “What’s a booth?”
Who would have guessed that the reason they did not cooperate was because they did not understand her instructions? At that moment I think it would have been very difficult to convince that woman that she was the problem rather than the children. See how tricky this issue of clarity becomes?
Do you know what an anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction is all about? Actually, that is the definition of a kiss! If someone asked to kiss you using those words, would you even know what they were talking about? We know what a kiss is, but very few people could understand what those confusing words mean! Using words that other people understand therefore becomes critical to clarity.
I don’t think we mean to be confusing…I just don’t think that we stop to realize that what we think we communicated was not actually communicated at all. That’s why there is great value in asking other people to explain what they heard so that we can be clear in our understanding.
I once heard of a plane crash that happened all because a pilot said, “Okay,” rather than the required word, “Rolling,” when communicating with the tower. The air traffic controllers, because of the early morning fog, had no idea that his ‘okay’ actually meant that he was taking off. After that sad incident it became even more obvious why there are standardized response requirements in order to insure clarity and avoid confusion.
A few years ago as I was headed to the airport, I got stuck in Atlanta traffic for hours because there had been an accident involving a bus load of college baseball players on their way to play a game in Florida. The bus driver had mistakenly gotten on an HOV ramp traveling at highway speed and was unable to make the necessary turn at the top of the ramp when he realized his mistake. The bus plunged off the overpass onto the highway below and several people lost their lives, including the driver. It was a very sad event. It all happened because the signage marking the ramp was unclear. As I passed by the same spot recently, I noticed that it is now marked clearly, but how unfortunate that four people lost their lives because at the time of the accident it was confusing!
All of these are simple illustrations, but they do press the point that clarity is one of the most important keys to a successful life. I hope that this week you will not just assume you are being clear when you communicate with other people, but that you will actually take the time to be certain. If you do this, you will have less stress, more productivity, and less unexpected challenges in your daily life. At least, that is my desire for all of us.
Tip: Be clear – and then some!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm