If people don’t understand what we are saying, then we are just broadcasting instead of really communicating. We want to feel understood. We want to know that the person we are talking to “gets” what we are saying. This is why learning to express our understanding in a conversation is so important, especially in customer and employee interactions. It helps us to feel like we are listened to; and, it makes our communications more effective as well as efficient.
How does it affect the way you feel about a person or company when you sense that they understand you?
What other techniques do you use to provide feedback that you “get” what the other person is saying?
The definition of successful communication is message received and understood. While we may understand with crystal clarity everything that is communicated to us, the communicator needs to know that they are being understood. A feedback loop must be created to communicate back to the person engaged with us that the message they are sending is not only being received but understanding is being achieved. When we are the ones communicating, it confirms for us that we have expressed what we intended when our audience gives us feedback that lets us know they “get” it. When it’s “gotten”, we feel connected because we are really communicating.
Beyond simple head nods and affirming grunts, what can we do to show others that we have both received and understood their messages?
Here are 4 tips for confirming understanding:
1) Use confirming statements. This calls for the other person to listen to you to ensure that they have communicated what they intended. This is especially beneficial when looking for a resolution to a customer issue where they are emotionally charged about the situation and/or there are a number of complicating variables.
“Let me make sure I understand… ”
“Let me repeat this back to you… ”
2) Summarize key facts. Review your understanding of the critical issues. This builds agreement about the situation and shared values. It also provides an opportunity for the customer to relate any needs they may have overlooked as well as variables and barriers that may influence their decisions.
“What I hear you saying is… ”
“So it sounds like… ”
3) Ask if your understanding is correct. Check in with them to make sure that you understand what they want you to understand. This gives them an opportunity to clarify any points or offer more information.
“Do I have it right?”
“Have I missed anything?”
4) Clarify misunderstandings if necessary and reflect your new understanding. When new information is brought to light or a point is clarified, reflect what you understand them to say and how it relates to the other information already provided. Instead of feeling like they are talking to someone who doesn’t understand, this reduces tension and builds feelings that they will be understood.
“Oh, it’s not… it’s actually…”
“I understand now that…”
Too often, sales agents may take action without thoroughly understanding the customer’s situation or real needs. Confirming your understanding helps you uncover more needs and recommend the best solutions with the highest value to your customers. If you are faced with a customer issue, don’t forget to use the techniques of assurance and regret to recognize the customer’s emotional needs and build a constructive rapport with upset customers.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.