We live in an “instant” world. People want to do everything instantly, including understanding, comprehension and making sense of something.
I remember having attended a strategy meeting where head of the department (call him boss) was explaining a new strategy that none of us had heard about before. He completed explaining and requested the audience to ask questions if any. One of the fellow team members instantly uttered, “This sounds interesting!”.
Boss gently smiled and cautioned, “When you say it sounds interesting, I am assuming that you have complete understanding of what I just said.” Further discussion revealed that the team member did not actually grasp the concept in its totality. She just uttered something because she had to, not because she really meant it.
How many times do we end up doing this? Saying something when we don’t really mean it. Our quest to sound intelligent and respond instantaneously forces us to sacrifice meaning. Wanting to be perceived as ‘smart’ takes precedence over wanting to be ‘relevant’. This becomes even more crucial when we work in a knowledge world where comprehension, contextual clarity and ability to communicate are central to our success as individuals and teams. I have seen many projects that failed, people who were put off, customers who were unhappy just because someone on the team didn’t care to understand things completely.
It is important to realize that understanding and comprehension of our work is at the core of our success as professionals. In fact, the more time we spend in fully understanding our approaches, the lesser time it takes in executing it.
One of my significant lessons in communication is: when communicating, you should not only strive to understand the logical and informational aspects of what is being said, but also emotional content behind them. How something is said, what words are used and what tone – these reveal the emotional background to some extent.
Comprehension is important. Understanding nuances of your work, its implications and clarity on overall context is as crucial in knowledge world as understanding others on the team. Style can enhance the presentation, but without substance, style itself cannot make you a better communicator.