Thoughts About 2016: December 6th Communication

Listen and communicate-- image cc from Flickr by Ky

Countdown to the end of this year. 25 days left. This month I am writing  posts reflecting on what has transpired and where I think I am headed and any advice or offers I can make for 2017. So today’s installment… Today’s thought– Communication is Sometimes About Listening Not Talking.

Talking is only one part of Communication, photo cc from Flickr by Moiggi Interactive
Talking is only one part of Communication, photo cc from Flickr by Moiggi Interactive

So, I am a big talker. I love telling stories– as you can tell from my passion to start and run a first class content creation agency. I can talk all day. I also love listening to other people’s stories, I really do…

But, sometimes I forget to leave space for them and really shut-up and listen. I am a work in progress. And this listening more than I talk thing is definitely one of the unfinished projects that make up ME!

Communication Requires Great Questions

I had another reminder of that today– But the tricky part is this… sometimes, to get someone to talk so you can practice listening, you need to ask the right, really good, dynamic questions. You need to nudge them to explain what they need-want-love!

This is particularly important if you work for clients. Ahhhh clients. I love my clients, they are beyond awesome. But sometimes I just am not really sure what they want. Then my storyteller, talking engine kicks in and I spend time telling them what I think they want. THIS GENERALLY DOES NOT WORK. The thing is, they will not always tell you. Even when you ask. They will show you some things, and kind of talk around the edges of a project. But at the end of the day, you will still only be sure about what you think is needed.

So what to do?

Better Communication Means Asking Loads of Questions -- photo cc from Flickr by Benjamin Reay
Better Communication Means Asking Loads of Questions — photo cc from Flickr by Benjamin Reay

In advance, before you begin, think of all the questions you can that might help the project be heart-stoppingly perfect. Write those questions down. Highlight the ones that are the most critical. Especially the ones that are most important to get things started. Then ask those questions and REALLY listen to the answers. If you are not sure you understand the answer, ask for more info. or better yet, ask for examples of things they like. Lots of examples, not just one!

Then lather-rinse-repeat. Do a bit of the work, show them that bit and ask more questions from your list. And sit there with your mouth closed and listen to the answers. Repeat back what you think you heard. Get confirmation.

I speak from painful lessons. Some very recent– showing how far I still need to go. You may have a great idea for what is needed for a client. The thing is, If they don’t agree then you actually have nothing.

So get working on  those questions.

Here’s a great place to start. 

Ask as many of them as you can.

Listen, check, implement and then ask again.

It seems slow, but in the long run, you will get to know your client really well and you will be a better communicator in other situations in your life.

Communication and really practicing listening definitely go on my 2017 goals list! How about you?