I have learned there can be a world of difference between what I say and what someone hears.
When installing the heating and air conditioning systems in three elementary schools, my construction firm suffered numerous problems.
At the completion of the jobs, I made the decision to terminate the manager of our heating and air conditioning department. Determined to let him down easy, one Friday afternoon I spent an hour explaining my dissatisfaction with his performance and my decision to let him go. I was surprised and pleased at how well he took the news.
The following Monday, I arrived early at my office and found the guy I had fired sitting at his desk. When I asked what he was doing, he responded that he was so fired-up by my pep talk he could not wait to get back to work. Obviously, what I said and what he heard were two different things.
Another miscommunication took place when our roofing department manager dispatched a crew to a job on Newberry Avenue. About an hour after the crew should have arrived, an angry contractor called to complain his job wasn’t being manned. An hour later the department manager accepted a collect call from a confused foreman who had been driving around Newberry, Florida looking for the job site.
Words do matter. Taking time to make sure what you say is understood, can save headaches, heartaches and money. The following are communication techniques I try to practice:
- Put distractions on hold and focus on the person you are talking with; make sure you have established eye contact and he or she is paying attention to what you are saying. By doing so, you will increase the chance to be understood and send the message that what you are communicating and whom you are communicating it to are important
- Encourage questions, by patiently speaking in a non-threatening way
- Don’t rush. The time you take ensuring you are understood, will save even more time in the long run
- Ask questions
If I had practiced the preceding I wouldn’t have had to fire the manager twice—believe me, second time he knew he was fired.