Can you hear me now?

Here are two interesting statistics:

92% of senior executives and managers say they communicate very well with subordinates on the subject of how the subordinates work fits in with overall company strategy.

59% of managers surveyed reported that their managers reported “very” or “somewhat” well. (Both from this article on Darwinmag.com.)

I bet that this applies to more topics than how work fits into over all strategies. And I bet it applies to people other than managers, too.

Here are some ways to check on how your communication is getting through.

Check for understanding

Checking for understanding can help correct some of the slippage that normally occurs in conversation.

One manager I know wraps up important conversations by saying, “I’m going to check for understanding, now. I’d like you to summarize our conversation for me so I’m sure I’ve been clear.”

Asking “Do you understand?” isn’t enough…. a yes answer only tells you that the person *believes* he understood. When another person can summarize in his own words, its a better indication he really did understand. Notice also, that the question is not about whether the other person got it, its about whether the speaker said it clearly.

Check the data

If you say something and the reaction seems puzzling or a bit off, the receiver may not have received the input you sent. Ask the receiver to repeat what he head and what he saw.

Once when I asked this question, the receiver described the way I was leaning forward, the tone of my voice, and my facial expression — but no words. He was reacting primarily to what he’d seen. When I repeated the words, he heard them.

Check for interpretation

If the words made it through in tact and the interaction is still tangled, check how the receiver interpreted your words. We all make meaning of what we hear; in most cases our interpretation is close enough to allow productive communication. Sometimes our interpretation is way off, and then it helps to check.

You may not need to do this for everyday conversation, except when the response seems not to match the content. For important communications, the extra time checking can save time lost as people march off on the basis of a misunderstanding.

Apply all three of these techniques when you are on the receiving end, too:

“I’m going to sumamrize now to make sure I understood ….”

“Here’s what I heard you say…”

“Here’s how I’m interpreting what I just heard….”