That’s not what I meant!

How many times have you thought you were getting your point across only to find out, sooner or later, that the person did not get what you were trying to express. 

It may be easy to blame the other person for not listening and, honestly, that could be at least half of the problem. But if you want to be successful in life (a.k.a. relationships), then you have to at least take the time to assess your part in the communication equation. 

George Bernard Shaw sums up the problem eloquently: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

So how can you know the other party understands? Clarifying really helps. While it may seem unnatural, simply asking the other person to share with you their understanding of what you have said will ensure that they “get it.” 

How can you ask without sounding like you don’t trust that they’ve been listening (which frankly, they may not have been)? Try these catch phrases:

“I really hope we’re on the same page. So, what next steps do you think we need to take?” This will instantly clue you in if they are heading in the right direction. 

“I’m glad we could talk this out, I’m really looking forward to (fill in what you believe is agreed to). Are you?” If they are, then you can discuss the details to ensure they truly see things in the same light. If not, you may have to start the conversation over again…

“Let me see if I get what you’ve said…” repeat what you’ve heard and seek affirmation, then ask, “So how do you see my perspective?” Starting with the other person’s concerns will ensure they know you care before you ask them to clarify what you've said.

Communication seems like it should be easy, but we’re all so busy and distracted and, often, self-absorbed we cannot assume others are entirely focused on what we are saying. When it matters, taking the time to double-check agreement can decrease the chances of future conflict. 

Bobbie Dillon, MS, is a Conflict Management Specialist who helps individuals and organizations learn the skills needed to lead peaceful lives. 

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