Do they understand you?

In most jobs or careers, there are aspects of your work that other people don’t understand.

Whether you work in a highly specialized technical field full of buzz words and acronyms, or a mechanical environment that requires special skills and tools, people you work with often don’t understand you.

Miscommunication or misunderstanding of technical information, and the resulting mistakes and delays, cost companies billions of dollars every year. By following three steps, you can help your business reclaim your share of those lost profits.

Be intentional

Few business people take the time to be intentional about their communications with others. Being intentional goes far beyond having an agenda for a meeting, or jotting down some quick notes before calling a client.

Being intentional in your communication involves:

  • Identifying the intent of the conversation or meeting
  • Listing the critical information you need to share or gather
  • Determining what you can provide to help them
  • Being specific on what action you want or need them to take

As you start to become intentional about the purpose of your communication, you move towards communicating with clarity.

Communicate with Clarity

When you communicate the more technical aspects of your work with others on your team, or to your customers, how often do you leave them confused? It happens more often than you think.

When dealing with technical information, the concept of simplicity is key. This does not mean insulting the people you are talking to by “dumbing down” your valuable information. It means preparing and presenting your information in a way that can be quickly and easily interpreted and assessed by anyone who is listening.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I share the information using terminology that the listener already knows?
  • Can I use an analogy to something non-technical to share the same information?
  • Can I simply skip much of the techno-babble, and replace it with a few simple words?

I recently had a service technician do maintenance on our home’s A/C unit. When he gave me the report he shared that:

“The whatzItz capacitor on the motor is running at X volts under the manufacturer’s spec of Y volts, which can cause a blasphtaz on the SomeThingOrOther, which isn’t good over the long term.”

I will admit: I am not mechanically inclined but all I really heard was “under manufacturer’s spec” and that didn’t sound good. I had no idea how big the issue was, or what the recommended next step should have been.

The technician then started to explain options that didn’t make any more sense than the original diagnosis.

I finally stopped him and asked: “In simple terms, what’s broken, and what should we do next?”

He smiled, and responded back simply: “Your unit is 12 years old. The electronics are starting to fail, causing the motor to run too fast. Given the age of the unit and the cost of repairs versus the cost of a new unit, if it was me, I would replace it before the heat of the summer arrives.”

And there it was … a simple, non-technical explanation that told me everything I needed to know without any techno-babble. As an added benefit, the technician was being very honest, sincere, and likable, so that I actually believed him when he told me what he would do if it was his unit.

Don’t get caught in the trap of using all your buzzwords and technical concepts to make yourself look important or valuable. The people you talk to will appreciate a clearer approach.

Ask clarifying questions

When sharing technical information, many business people assume that the other person would ask a question if they didn’t understand. This is a very dangerous assumption.

There are a multitude of reasons why people won’t ask you clarifying questions, so it is your responsibility to get the ball rolling.

Use simple statements and questions like:

  • I know it’s a lot of information and sometimes I can confuse people.  Is there anything I can make clearer?
  • Sometimes I get carried away with all the technology. Did I happen to explain anything in babble instead of English?
  • So what are your thoughts about that last information I shared with you?
  • It’s important to me that you have all the right information. Is there anything I can clarify for you?

The specific statements and questions are not as important as your commitment to making sure the other person understands what you are saying. When you are committed to doing the right thing for the people you are working with, they will become more open, and will start asking even more questions.

As you develop your ability to present technical information clearly to non-technical people you will create an environment where they are comfortable asking for clarification. You will also begin to see them clearly understanding what you are sharing with them, and moving to action much faster.

MarkVickers-011Mark A. Vickers

Speaker, Coach, Author of “Speaking Is Selling – 51 Tips Your Mother Taught You”

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