This article was originally posted on May 11, 2018, and has been updated.

Do you think since you’ve said the words you intended, you’ve communicated effectively?

Think again.

One of the most common refrains heard from leaders, managers, and top professionals is, “I don’t know why they don’t get it, I’ve already told them a dozen times.”

My response to that comment is, “What’s your point? Your job is to communicate effectively.”

Now, remember, we’re talking about extremely talented, capable, and successful people who are mistaking words for effective communication.

Whether you’re talking to your clients, boss, team, spouse or children, believing that you’ve communicated effectively because you’ve said what you wanted is foolhardy and a misunderstanding of how communication works.

The critical point to understand is that communication is not the words that come out of your mouth (or your pen), but what happens in the other person’s mind.

The key to effective communication is producing a shift for the other person—whether that is a shift of focus, awareness, understanding, or what action they should take.

The perception of the person on the other end of your words is the most important element of communication.

It bears repeating again: communication is not what you say.

What is it, then?

It is what gets elicited in the other person.

Communication is how the other person interprets what you say, not the actual words you use.

Here are 4 ways to be a better communicator:

  1. Develop an understanding of what message is being received by the people you’re communicating to.
  2. Ensure the message you intend to communicate is understood by the other person or people.
  3. Get a response that indicates what they are actually perceiving and understanding.
  4. Revise your messaging to ensure your intentions are ultimately being understood (see steps 1, 2 and 3).

When you shift your focus from what you want to say to what the other person is understanding, your capacity for impact and effectiveness improves by magnitudes.

This approach affects not only your message but it creates a much higher quality of relationship, engagement, and responsiveness.

It also provides far more latitude in being understood by others.

People who know you care about what they are hearing and understanding will reciprocate by making it easier to hear them in return.

You will get a lot more feedback, and it will be easier to know your communication is landing—and having the intended result.

It’s critical to remember that when you’re speaking, they’re not hearing what you say. Really!

They are processing your words based upon their frame of reference.

This is the norm for human beings, and every great communicator must work to ensure that they are understood.

Focus on the impact of your words—versus trying to get what you want to say out of your mind and your mouth—this is how effective communication really happens.

When you make a request, suggestion, or demand, what you say is insignificant compared to how they respond.   

Effective communication is getting a response that demonstrates your message has been understood.

To accelerating your success,

Steve

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