Have you ever said or heard statements like these?
“It’s not far now”
“We need it quickly”
“I’ll call you soon”
“Can you get it to me sometime soon?”
“That will cost a lot of money”
“We need to communicate better”
If you’ve said these things, you have a clear idea of what you mean. You know what ‘quickly’, ‘soon’, ‘a lot’ and ‘better’ mean, don’t you?
The obvious problem is, of course, that the other person may not be working to the same timetable as you, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen as quickly or as soon as you had hoped!
These statements are known as generalisations, with parts of the message being distorted or deleted, so they are open to ambiguous understanding.
When you hear someone saying these types of expressions, and it will cause problems if the message is open to interpretation, it would be good to offer some clarifying statements or questions;
• So I can be clear, exactly when do you want the report?
• When you say ‘a lot’, how much do you mean, precisely?
• What’s your understanding of ‘better’ communication?
Of course, you wouldn’t ask these questions every time someone isn’t 100% clear; only when it is important that your understanding is vital. Pulling someone up whenever they delete some piece of information will only drive them to distraction, and is not a good communication technique.
Keep listening for when you might say something that could be misinterpreted. It will make you more aware of your communication skills and allow you to build greater rapport in your conversations.