The other day, I was in a meeting with the senior director of my division and he received an email that was pertinent to the topic we had gotten together for. He read through the rather lengthy email out loud and said “Ok…so what is he trying to tell me?” So he read through the email again, taking the time to stop with each sentence or paragraph and rephrase it in his own words so that he could try to truly understand the message being communicated. By the end of the second reading, my director had successfully decoded the email and a better understanding of what was being said. It was a great example to me as to how to strive for better communication.
I have received similar emails before, but my responses are usually different. After the first read through, I usually hit reply and begin my response. I can’t tell you how many times I missed an important detail or misinterpreted the sender’s message because I was in a rush to respond. I think we all tend to do this when we communicate with others. Whether through email, text message, phone call, or in person conversation, we often fail to seek understanding the message being sent to us because we are too quick to share our own opinions, thoughts, and ideas. How much better would our personal and professional relationships be if we sought understanding first and then framed our responses based off of that understanding?
In an article for Inc. magazine, Paul Schoemaker talks about the importance of interpretation. “Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, you are tempted to reach for a fast (potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint.” in our fast paced society, we want to move from task to task as quickly as possible. Multi-tasking has become a valued trait, but it may not be such a good thing after all. How much better would the output of our day be, whether through communication or work or play, if we would focus on one thing at a time? And not only giving that one thing focus, but to fully understand it and give it our all?