We live in a P2P (People To People) world, yet often times it feels like we live in a T2T (Tech To Tech) world or a D2D (Device To Device) world. Yeah - get my device to text your device and set up a chat instead of a meeting. As we depend more and more on our devices, we slowly forget how to communicate when we finally do get into a meeting. Wow! A meeting? Really? You mean like with real people talking instead of us thumb-typing on our devices?
It is so easy to miscommunicate when we finally get together in a meeting. Here are 6 tips to clearer and stronger communication:
1) Begin with the Objective of the meeting. So easy to do, yet so easy to forget to do! It is so easy to rush into a meeting, and get going. Begin every meeting by stating the objective of the meeting. What do we want to accomplish as a team in this meeting? I have found that beginning the meeting with "We will be successful if…" gets everyone on the same page and focused on the right task at hand. A client recently shared that at the end of a meeting, he said "So, the objective of this meeting really was…" Clearly, it would have been better to begin with that instead of end with that.
2) Be present. Remember to clear your mind and focus on listening. It is very common to have the previous thing that you were working on lingering in your mind. You might be multi-tasking without realizing it, trying to finish up what you were working on and only paying partial attention in the meeting. Mental multi-tasking does not work. Instead of accomplishing both tasks, you might be compromising both tasks. Take a deep breath, clear your mind, focus and be 100% present at the meeting. If you are facilitating the meeting, it would be helpful to remind everyone to take a deep breath and be 100% present at this meeting.
3) Listen instead of respond. If you are trying to figure out what to say or how to respond, there is a good chance that you will mis-hear and not get the true message that the person is trying to communicate. Slow down the pace of the meeting and listen without framing your response. Use statements like "Ok, give me a few seconds to respond" to give yourself some time to think and respond after the last person shared his or her idea.
4) Mirror to confirm what you heard. This technique works especially well especially when discussing difficult topics or emotionally-charged topics. Repeat back what you think you heard to confirm that you understood. The following phrases can help you to confirm what you heard:
"I believe you said…" and repeat what you thought you heard the person say.
"I want to confirm that I understood you well…" and share what you understood.
5) Summarize the meeting outcomes. Summarize the meeting by repeating any decisions made and all action items.
6) Confirm key decisions in writing. If there are key decisions made, confirm your understanding of the decision in writing with an email. At a recent client meeting, a member of the team confirmed his understanding of a decision made with an email. Other team members were upset upon reading that email as they believed the person changed the decision. He calmly shared that he did not change the decision. Rather, he wanted to communicate what he thought he had heard. He noted that "sometimes it seems different when you write it down." Writing it down and confirming the decision allowed this team to resolve a miscommunication before it led to missed execution.