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This topic usually arises in my conversations in the form of a complaint or a problem the protégé brings to my attention. That problem sounds something like "he/she doesn't understand me" or "no one listens to me". At that point I share with them this simple yet somehow often overlooked critical concept: Successful communication is the burden of the speaker and not the audience. To put it even more bluntly (and when I am blunt I am so purposefully): if "they" don't understand what you're saying it's likely your fault.
The ultimate goal of any communicator is to deliver a message and have it received and understood. To do that one must "package" this message from the point of view of the audience. The "audience" I'm talking about could be anything from an auditorium full of people or just one other person (like your boss or co-worker).
Some questions to ask yourself to better construct your message "packaging" include:
- Will the audience be receptive or hostile to my message?
- What are the fears/concerns of the audience to my message and what can I do to address those fears?
- Does the audience have a vested interested in listening to my message or are they here because they have to be?
- Does the audience need additional tools (for example, visuals, data, other people to corroborate) to receive and understand my message?
- Are there better times than others for the audience to hear this message? For example you may not want to talk to someone about a really big initiative the day before they go on vacation.
This simple analogy should bring home the point: If you compose a letter or an email and don't address it correctly your intended recipient doesn't receive it. Your message inside may have been extremely important and perfectly composed but if it's not addressed or packaged correctly it won't get delivered. Period.
"If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view-as well as your own."
- Henry Ford
The secret to communication is to follow Henry Ford's advice and design your message delivery accordingly. When communicating you need to spend just as much time creating your envelope/"packaging" as you do composing your message.