Clarifying your message: three steps to effective communication

by Betty Lochner on July 30, 2011



Clarifying your Message

More often than not, when we communicate, the person you are talking to will not  really understand what you are trying to say. The result can be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, unanswered requests, and even damaged relationships.

You can increase the understanding by learning three simple steps.

1) Summarize

The first step to getting your message heard is to summarize the major points of the communication.  People don’t generally ask for clarification when they are communicating.  So, it it your job, to follow up directly after the communication happens. 

Simply asking: “Do you understand?” is not enough. The answer will inevitably come back: “yes”, which often means “not really”. 

You must go back over the major points you are trying to get across say saying something like, “so just to summarize what we talked about:  1) I will be getting the dogs from the kennel, 2) You will be getting the groceries, and 3) We will meet at the house for dinner at 6.” Or, so “Let’s go back over what we agreed on…..”

2) Document in Writing

When being understood is especially important, after summarizing, follow-up with a written summary of the communication.  For meetings, notes should be written up with specific assignments and deadlines. If something needs to happen, write it down. Include what needs follow up and by when.

3) Follow Up

Once you’ve documented the follow up – make sure you do it!

Did you make a plan or ask for something to happen? Check back to make sure the message of the communication really was clear and carried out — before it’s too late to make adjustments.

Make Clarifying and Confirming a Habit

If you consciously use these three steps, they will soon begin to become a habit – one that will increase your chances of effective communication on a regular basis.



Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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