Being Understood: How to Communicate the Message You Want Every Time

If you want to get your message across to anybody – whether in writing or in person – there are two things you must bear in mind.

  • The first is that you are totally responsible for how the other person understands what you say.
  • Secondly you should concentrate on what people DO in response to your message – not what they SAY.

The secret of being understood
Think about how easy it is for communication to be misunderstood.

Two sides of a conversation can easily read something entirely different into exactly the same words.

How often have you heard someone say ‘that’s not what I said’?

communicateConversations between partners in a relationship often present the best – or perhaps that should be the worst – examples.

A husband meeting his wife after she has been to the hairdresser might think he is offering her a compliment when he tells her that her hair looks great.

He might be shocked if she greets him with a response of ‘what was wrong with it before?’

In pure communication terms, the woman took this comment as an insult and it therefore WAS an insult even though her husband intended it as a compliment.

The failure of communication was entirely the man’s responsibility as he has to be in charge of the result of what he says. (I’m not suggesting here that men are always at fault for communication breakdowns – this is just an example!)

In business, people may respond differently but they are just as likely to hear something different from what you think you said.

If you’re not getting the response that you want, it’s not your customer’s or audience’s fault. You’ve got to change your communication. It’s as simple as that.

And, of course, sometimes a truly flexible communicator has to change the substance of their message, not just the delivery, if they want it to be successful.

Why actions really do speak louder than words
You can have the most beautiful ideas and put them across very eloquently but if, at the end of the day, it doesn’t change someone’s mind or behavior, then it’s usually pointless.

That’s where it’s important to remember that it’s what the other person does that matters.

And sometimes you need to read their responses carefully to ensure you understand clearly how they are interpreting what you say.

People will often say the right thing just to be polite so you have to read their body language and facial expressions as well as listening to their words.

The most successful communicators work on developing their sensory acuity, which is their ability to recognize small behaviors in people – such as facial expressions – which give away what they really think.

One example of this principle in business is where you carry out research or ask for feedback from customers and they tell you something. In reality, they’ll then go off and do something entirely different. What they do is more important than what they say.

It’s been said that if Edison had asked the market for feedback, he would have created bigger candle instead of a light bulb!

So seek feedback but interpret it carefully and stay focused on your objective.

The more you pay attention to your audience, the more chance you have of getting them to hear the message you want.


How the NLP Skill of Chunking Can Help You Get What You Want

Although most of us have goals and dreams, why do so few people succeed in achieving what they really want?

The problem for many is that, when they set a big objective, they can be put off by the scale of the task.

But as the Chinese philosopher Confucius said:

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

The problem for many people is that the whole thousand miles seems intimidating but the first step can also seem unsatisfying.

So they never get started.

This is true in business as well. Your journey to a hundred customers begins with the first sale and your journey to a million dollars in the bank begins with your first thousand.

But most of us begin by looking too far ahead. The secret is to find a way of taking that first step quickly.

One of the ways in which we can categorize people according to how they think is through their preferred ‘chunk size’. This reflects whether they like to look at the detail of all the individual steps or just the big picture of the total journey.

takingstepsThe problem is that both types of people can have difficulty in reaching their destination. They might lose focus by getting bogged down in the detail or else they never take any action because they don’t identify the steps required.

The NLP process called ‘chunking’ helps both types of people – and the truth is most of us have elements of one or the other.

The secret of taking action is making the steps small enough to be manageable and large enough to be satisfying.

Fortunately the process is quite simple when you have a system to follow and it is useful in a wide range of situations from time management to writing a presentation.

We can use the concept of chunking in two ways. We can:

  • Become more specific and get more detail.
  • Become more general and get a bigger picture.

Using chunking to become more specific

If we are talking about cars, for example, we can become more specific by talking about makes of car such as Ford or BMW.

We can then become more specific still by going down to brands or models from each manufacturer.

The secret of making this work is asking the right questions. In the car situation, we might ask ‘what are some examples of this?’

This can be represented visually, for example, using a mind-mapping approach where each idea is broken down into further segments.

If you are developing an action plan, you might ask ‘what specifically do I need to do to achieve this?’

Or in writing a presentation, you might ask ‘What information supports this point?’

Here’s another view on using chunking for planning.

Although this seems very simple, it is extremely useful in a wide range of situations.

Using chunking to become more general
Chunking also helps us to become more general – in the cars example, we would move towards other types of road transport and then other types of transport and finally up to something very general like ‘movement’.

Again the secret is in the questions you ask. In this example, it would have been: ‘What is this an example of?’ or ‘What is the purpose of this?’

One way in which chunking to become more general is useful is where you have a large to-do list and you want to organize it into categories or chunks that can be combined.

For each task on your list, you would ask ‘what does this task achieve?’ or ‘which category does it fall into?’

Check out this article by Adam Eason for more suggestions.

Chunking can therefore help you take the steps you need to get what you want.