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1. It’s you, not them.
Can you call yourself a consultant, a mentor, a teacher, a manager, or a leader if someone doesn’t understand you?
Whether you’re explaining a method, a process or a solution, does it mean anything if people don’t understand you? How is it a solution if someone can’t use it? How is it a lesson if someone can’t learn from it?
2. Watch your frustration.
Have you ever seen someone look irritated or frustrated? Have you seen someone look that way when trying to explain something to you?
Think back to childhood. Have you seen someone look irritated or frustrated when trying to explain something to you? Was it a parent? Was it your teacher? It didn’t feel good, did it? How do people usually respond when they know someone is irritated with them? They shut down. They will stop asking questions and they will stop telling you when they don’t understand. If you’re managing a team, this will lead to mistakes and will cost you time and money. Guess who cleans up the mess? Guess who is held responsible? You. So watch your facial expressions, your tone, and the words you use when speaking.
3. Don’t repeat.
If you use a screwdriver to remove a screw and it doesn’t work, do you continue to use the same tool?
The same principle applies here. Find the right tools. There is no reason to repeat the same explanation in the same way if it was not understood the first time.
4. Don’t give up. Change your approach.
Do you normally try to solve a problem, run into an obstacle and give up?
It’s still you, not them. I often see people give up when someone doesn’t understand. They justify it by saying, “I don’t know how else to explain it to you, so that’s it.” WHAT?! Do you normally try to solve a problem, run into an obstacle and give up? Of course not! You change your approach. You try another method. That’s why people hire you.
People come from different educational backgrounds, cultures, and first languages. People also learn differently. A best practice is to break things down. Try turning what you say into simple steps, turn it into bullet points, use simple words, and avoid acronyms and other industry terms. Also, you should practice drawing and mapping because pictures speak louder than words, and a good visual may be all that’s needed to convey your message.
5. Ask them to repeat what they think they heard.
It will help you figure out a better way to explain, and also help you improve your communication skills.
Before you attempt to explain again, ask the person what they thought they heard. It helps to hear how your words were interpreted. It will help you figure out a better way to explain, and also help you improve your communication skills.
6. Don’t talk until they finish explaining what the problem is.
If you don’t fully understand the issue before attempting a solution, you run the risk of wasting more time by repeatedly providing the wrong solution.
I’ll keep this part short because it’s very simple: how can you solve a problem without knowing what the problem is? Do you fix things without fully inspecting them? How can you answer someone (provide a solution) without knowing what the issues are? I know you want to save time, but identifying the issue may require time. Do it right the first time. If you don’t fully understand the issue before attempting a solution, you run the risk of wasting more time by repeatedly providing the wrong solution.