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  • Writer's pictureVicki Viall

That Is NOT What I Said!

Have you ever been talking to someone, and they stop you and start going off on you saying that you just said "Blah, blah, blah" to them? And, you didn't. Not even close.

One day recently at work, I answered the phone the same way I do every day: "Thank you for choosing ____________. Your balance on your account today is ______. How may I help you with that today?"

At that point, the "gentleman" on the line started screaming (and yes, I mean full on screaming!) and cursing at me stating he didn't call to hear me threaten him or his service.

I am sitting there smacking my forehead and inwardly groaning.

When he stopped, I politely said, "Mr. __________, please listen and I will quote word-for-word what I just said," and I did. I said "at no time and no place in those few words did I threaten to turn your service off nor did I threaten you. In fact, I asked how could I HELP you with that account/service today?"

Before he could go off again, I quickly added, "My job is to NOT let your service interrupt and it would be my job to help you avoid just that. Now, if we can start again, HOW may I help you today?"

Remarkably, this time, he was calmer, more coherent, and not threatening me as he had just done by saying if he could physically find me, he would do me bodily harm.

Anyway, that's not today's point. The point is, how is it that we can say something so clearly and have it misinterpreted into something so far in space we can't even see it?

Apparently, not hard. I had someone who was always asking me if I preferred salty snacks or chocolate/sweet snacks. Invariably, I answered definitely crunchy and salty.

Still, every time that person would see me, they would be pushing some chocolate treat at me or asking if I had tried such and such chocolate treat. I would repeat again that chocolate is a nice now and then thing. I much prefer crunchy and salty.

One day, someone else told me that person told them that I LOVE chocolate and they had gotten me some. My head just dropped in frustration and I patiently repeated one more time, that while chocolate is nice, I only like it now and then.

I am sure that all of you have gone through that before. Right?

And, considering that approximately 70% of our time is spent communicating with others, this is a very important issue. Especially, when dealing with customers and clients. (Note 1)

So, what can we do to ensure the other person is hearing what we are actually saying.

That is an excellent question, and I am so glad you asked it.

According to the site, (Note 2), there are Five Barriers to Effective Communication.

Sadly, none of the five address my issue above, but they are very helpful and useful suggestions we should all incorporate. That same site offers Nine Effective Communication Skills and I strongly suggest each of you spend a few minutes reading through, and perhaps, making notes on the ones you think would be beneficial for you and your business.

One of the things that caught my eye on that site, and that I like the most was this quote from Henry David Thoreau: "The greatest compliment that was ever paid to me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."

Wish my "friend" had read that quote...

Listening is not just important to our business success, nor is it just important to our friendships. It's important to everything we try to communicate throughout every day that we live. Most communication may be verbal, but not all. You know that, right? One of my favorite non-verbal communication responses is a good, old eye roll.

Click on Note 2 above and the hyperlink to learn more about non-verbal communication. That is when we can definitely send some confusing cues and clues to someone. It is definitely worth a few more moments of your time to read through that and address things like eye rolls, forehead smacks, and a change in tone when speaking. Goodness knows, that is one area that I am definitely working on.

I think we can all agree that communication is extremely important to us. So, "Given all the listening that we do, you would think we'd be good at it! In fact, most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear, as described by Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation." (Note 3)

That's a rather frightening statistic, isn't it? However, being honest after paying attention to myself more at work, I believe that to be an accurate statement above.

The same site in Note 3 offers a most helpful tip: "Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness . Understanding your own personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions with others."

Please keep in mind that when I mention sites that I am researching on, I am NOT suggesting just the portions I address. I believe it is worth my time, and your's, to read the entire page or article. And, then I also try to dedicate time to practice and/or write notes on things I am learning or other things to try as I become more comfortable and confident in using them. Hopefully, you will find that useful as well.

So, I have already stated and shared sites that agree that THE most important part of communication is listening. Further, we can only control how WE listen in any conversation. So, I went looking for additional suggestions to help us actively listen and help ensure that our customers are hearing what we are saying and vice versa.

One of the best I found (Note 4) goes back to what I addressed in the dealing with difficult customers blog - ACTIVE listening.

Please take as much time as you need to read all of the sources I mentioned above, to reread at least once, and then to make notes that will help YOU and also help YOUR BUSINESS to improve from better communication.

After all, we don't just communicate with clients. We also communicate with co-workers, bosses, employees, friends, family... well, MANY people each and every day.

As always, I truly hope this helps and would love to have feedback from YOU how this has helped or from things you have done that you think others would benefit from.

In the meantime, a Very Happy Mother's Day to YOU and have a wonderful week. Until next time, embrace your true self and have live life out loud!

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