Communication "Tricks"

Communication Tricks.jpg

Every dialogue you have leads to either understanding each other or talking about two different things. Sometimes you don't even realize the other person doesn't have any idea of what you are talking about.

One way to overcome this struggle seems very obvious: Simply ask "Do you understand?" Maybe you are even doing this already. But is it really working? The is usually answered with "Yes." It's a closed questions, that is aiming at a specific information and the answer can only be yes or no. You don't really know that the person understood what you were saying. It could also be, that you were talking about the blue boat and your counterpart is colorblind.

If he answers "Yes." he might think he is seeing the same thing as you are, but he is actually not. In every meeting and conversation where you want to be 100% sure that the other person and you have the same idea and information in your head, you need to ask the other person "Can you please repeat what I just said." or "What did you understand, what I just said? I want to check, if I could get my point across."

There are different question techniques that you can use to get to the information you want to get at. 

Questioning Techniques

There are different techniques to get to the information you are looking for. You can imagine every conversation as opporuntiy to exchange information. If you look at the image, think of the light blue space as all information that is possibly out there. Depending on the question technique you are either aiming at one specific part of it, like the blue circle, or you are aiming at everything and the person you are asking something picks the information that is most relevant to you. That would be the pink circle. Open questions give space to consider the entire light blue square to find the relevant information. Open questions begin with a question word such as, what, who, where, when or how.

  • How do you imagine the solution?

Beware of the Why question though. It is not very useful. They question the behavior of the person, make them want to back off  and feel offended. It adds pressure and makes people justify themselves, even if they did something great. A way to change this question would be to ask "Can you give me some context, I don't understand." or "Is there a reason behind?"

Closed questions request a specific information. That would be the blue circle. From all information that is possibly available, you are aiming at one little bit only.

  • Were you on time?

Sometimes, this technique is useful because it's efficient. Other times, you keep information away from yourself. You have probably noticed how some people answer your question of "How come you didn't you tell me?" with "You didn't ask." That is what can happen as a result of closed questions. 

With leading questions you already suggest the answer and pretend you are still asking a question.

  • Don't you think it's disrespectful to be late for a meeting?

If you are asked a leading question, your first impulse is to say yes just due to the way the question is set up. It's manipulating, doesn't really aim for extra information and usually puts the person asked into a bad position. 

The other very important component of a successful and efficient conversations is the listening part. Many times, we don't put a lot of attention on what people are actually saying or talking about. We just add our own story, interrupt because we were just reminded of something.

Active Listening

Usually conversations follow a certain pattern. The pink person is talking about something and the green person is thinking about something. The conversation could look like that: 

Green: "How was the festival?"
<Thinking> I hate festivals.

Pink: "It was awesome, I loved it. The weather was great."

Green: "Sounds great. The last time, I went to a festival, it was raining all weekend long."
<It was awful. I had back problems and a tinnitus.>

Pink: "We also had some rain but I didn't mind. I had the rain boots and the music was great."
<It sucks to talk to green. This insincere interest is ridiculous.>

In the end, the green one didn't learn anything about the pink's festival and the pink one didn't learn anything about green's health issues. 

Sometimes we also don't feel like really stepping into the other person's world but actually we learn more about the other one. Not every conversation has to be deep and meaningful but if you want to have a conversation like that, try listening actively. You will learn more about the other person, build up trust and connect on a deeper level. It will be easier to approach the person in the future, ask for favors and rely on each other. Trust and connection are probably the strongest motivators for cooperation.

So how to go about?

Listening actively means that you don't add your stories to the pink one's. Try to keep quit, focus on what the other person is saying. Try to summarize, repeat and just nod. Ask questions to go deeper into details and check what the other person liked about things.

Green: "How was the festival?"
<Thinking> I wonder how pink liked it.

Pink: "It was awesome, I loved it. The weather was great."

Green: "Sounds great. Where was is exactly?" or "What did you like best?"
<I wonder what made it so awesome. Maybe I can learn something of how to make my next festival experience any better.>

Pink: "I just love the music, being outside and meeting new people. I met someone very nice and I find it a good exercise to stay open minded. What about you? How was your weekend?"

To use the communication tricks you just learned about, pick one of the things such as staying quiet, just nodding when someone is talking, not asking why questions anymore etc. and try to constantly stick with it for one week. Afterwards ask yourself: How did you benefit from it?