Intent v. Impact: Is What You’re Saying What They’re Hearing?
Communicating effectively requires paying attention to the intent of a message as well as its impact. In their book, Be Quiet Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion, husband and wife authors Drs. Peter and Susan Glaser beautifully illustrate the difference between a message’s content (the facts) and its interpretation (the meaning). Whether you’re communicating in the board room, the classroom, or the living room, recognizing how your message is interpreted can help you connect so what you mean to say matches what others hear.
Acknowledging the power dynamics in a relationship and considering your message from your audience’s point of view can help reduce miscommunication. If you are a leader asking a subordinate when he or she will finish a project, you may simply be trying to plan your next move; however, your employee may feel attacked. You ask, “When will your project be done?” He or she hears, “Why is this taking so long? I’m unhappy with your performance.”
If you see body language that suggests your message didn’t land as intended, check it out. If your employee crosses his or her arms in a defensive stance, takes a deep breath and looks away from you, or seems generally put out, ask a follow up question or attempt to clarify your position. “I’m asking so I can figure out how to plan for the steps that follow your project. I really appreciate your work on this.”
Genuine, specific praise is a great way to help people feel more confident, and to interpret your message in the most positive light.