When is the last time you paused to consider WHY you are having a conversation? Determining your intent before initiating a conversation helps define your approach and leads to more meaningful interaction.
Consider these questions before initiating your next important conversation:
- What result do you need from the interaction? Start with a BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front. Be clear and specific about what you hope to accomplish.
- How can you start the conversation so that you can understand the other person’s needs, objectives or position and accomplish a mutually beneficial outcome? Most miscommunication occurs from not checking your assumptions before you dive headfirst into a discussion.
- What questions can you ask that create space for your results? Questions open space for new ideas and insights to emerge. Answers (telling people what to think) shut down a conversation and can suck the oxygen out of the room and the energy from the conversation.
In addition to pausing before communicating with someone, it is essential to confirm that the impact of your message matches your intention. To ensure that your intent was achieved you need to find out the impact by getting feedback, and the best way to do that is to ask questions.
Keep in mind that simply asking “Do you understand?” will not actually help you understand if the impact and your intention are aligned! A more effective question is “What is your understanding of what I just shared?”
Asking for feedback also helps to reveal if the person you are interacting with has a different context. Whether it’s the definition of a word or the expectation that someone knows how to do something “the right way,” context colors conversation and can create incredible confusion. There are many times we have to make sure that we heard the words the person spoke.
Consider the letter W. Depending on your vantage point, it could look like an M or a W. Getting feedback and checking for shared context will give you a chance to clear up misunderstandings before they multiply and closes the conversation loop.
Make your conversations more meaningful by taking a few minutes to define your WHY. Share your BLUF. And make sure that your impact matches your intent by asking open-ended questions to check your assumptions, confirm that you have a shared context, and close the communication loop.