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Have you ever said: “Explain it to me as if I were a six year old”?
Now, have you ever heard a six-year-old say to you: “Explain it to me AND make sure I understand it”?
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being in the company of my niece. I imagine that she is similar to many six year olds; curious, with a lot of questions. “What is that?” “How does that work?” “What does vandalism mean?”
Not being a child psychologist, and not having a child of my own, I couldn’t help being surprised by her astute comments that acknowledged not only the need to hear, but also the need to understand. Her request to “explain it to me so I understand it” is a statement that, if asked in business, would drastically reduce the amount of miscommunication that occurs when leading a team or selling to a client.
As leaders and sales people, wouldn’t it be nice to say to many of our colleagues or prospects, “explain it to me so that I understand it.” This is really what communication is all about. However, to put such a demand on our fellow communicator may compromise the perception of our own intellect.
So what can we do to ensure that, when communicating, both parties actually understand the intention of the communication and the clear action to take?
In communication, our dialogue may veer off course. This happens because we are going back and forth without completely understanding the other person’s perspective prior to providing information. We often see this occur when we lead, or in sales and service where we are anxiously trying to get to our message without completely understanding the perspective of the other person.
Before we can decide if someone understands us, we need to understand what they think, what they know, what they have experience with, in regards to the topic that is being discussed. By understanding their view of the situation, circumstance, or information we are much better prepared to provide them with information that will ensure they “understand”.
At Ignite Excellence we use a concept called “probing to understanding”. This technique can be used to lead a colleague to the real reason they feel or do something, or it can be used in sales to isolate a situation or an opportunity.
The six-step process to “probe to understanding” is:
- Ask the other person their perspective on a particular situation
- Ask what other criteria is important in that perspective or in making a particular decision
- Ask them to prioritize that criteria
- ‘Dig Deep,’ meaning probing deeply and logically on specific issues or cues. Ask more questions to isolate the reason beyond the importance and identify that the reasons are in fact the REAL reasons, and not just the reasons they were comfortable in communicating to you
- Clarify all areas of confusion or uncertainty
- Provide a possible solution to the situation, problem, or opportunity.
By the time you have done the first five steps, you have acquired a lot of knowledge about the other person’s perspective. That knowledge will actually lead to your UNDERSTANDING. When you then provide a solution, based on your understanding, inspired by your colleague or client, identifying their criteria and priorities, you will be in a much better position to provide a solution that they actually UNDERSTAND. More importantly, will feel compelled to act upon.
Action: When communicating to someone, ask yourself “do I understand enough about their perception and situation to provide council on how to move forward?” If not, dig deep, probe to understand their perspective. Your understanding will lead to theirs.