I’ll never forget when an early business mentor told me, “Burg, when the shooter misses the target…it ain’t the target’s fault.”
The older I get, and the more I study influence and communication, the more correct I believe he was.
How often do we try and get our point across but fail? It seemed that “what (s)he thought I said isn’t what I meant.” Or even, “what (s)he thought I meant isn’t what I said.”
Whose “fault” is this misunderstanding? Who is to “blame?”
I believe the answer is . . . “it doesn’t matter.” In my opinion, fault and blame are both irrelevant.
On the other hand, if we were to ask whose “responsibility” it was for the message not being received as intended, I’d say it is the sender’s.
Yes, the onus is on the communicator to ensure their message is understood.
When the late, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggested (in Habit #5) that we “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” he was certainly right on the mark. Doing so is vitally important in the communication process.
Both parts are important. Here, however, we are referring to the second part of that Habit.
You were not understood. Your message missed the mark. It did not hit its intended target.
If that’s the case, first, take responsibility for it. Then, look at why it happened and how to more effectively communicate that message next time.
Nine times out of ten, the major reason was that two different belief systems – yours and theirs – were at work in some way, confusing the issue.
And saying nine times out of ten is probably underestimating the cause by about nine tenths!
Key Point: Be sure that what you said and meant…is what they heard and understood. How? Ask enough clarifying questions to be sure.
The anguish it will save is well-worth those few extra moments.
So happy to announce that the paperback edition of Adversaries into Allies is now available. If you would like to accelerate your people skills and Master The Art of Ultimate Influence…you may purchase the book on amazon.com or at your local bookseller.
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So true, Bob!
It reminded me of a story I heard about a head football coach who was chewing on his defensive coordinator because the defense was giving up way too many points.
The coordinator told the coach that the players were the worst he had ever had to deal with…he had told them HUNDREDS of times how they should be lined up and executing the plays.
The head coach replied that if the defensive coordinator had indeed delivered the instruction hundreds of times, the fault didn’t reside with the players………
Wow – Phil. What a GREAT story and example! Thank you for sharing that!
Bob that is a very helpful post.
I listened to a few of your interviews on YouTube this morning for the first time and really enjoyed them and got a lot of helpful stuff. I’m 25 with a great wife and 3 kids and one on the way and at the same time I am trying to start my own business, but I want to educate myself on how to set up a successful structured business, so I’m not setting myself up for failure. This post really showed me a lot on the importance of communication. Thanks
Jeremy, thank you. So glad you enjoyed the post and the YouTube interviews. Sounds like you are on your way indeed. Yes, educate yourself and create a beneficial context for your success. Rooting for you and looking forward to hearing more from you!
Bob. This is a great posting. It is always easy to blame the person who is receiving the message or communication when the person doesn’t receive the information in the way we intended. I love the point about who is responsible for delivering the message. A few years ago, someone reminded me that when we wake up in the morning, the face we see in the mirror is our own and not someone else’s. This person used this example to explain that when we mis-communicate then we are responsible.
Pete, thank you. I appreciate your kind feedback. And, I love the example about the face in the mirror when we wake up. Great point!
This is the second time I’ve heard this idea this year. And I just have a really hard time with this one. Because we have a physical ability to hear and then there’s how we process and comprehend what we hear. So, I struggle with the idea, as the communicator, of having to watch what I say, how I say it and still yet how the receiver understood me. But I’m learning and I always seek ways to improve myself and those around me.
Nia, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Indeed, effective communication is – by its very nature – difficult, which is why it’s something that we all continually need to work on. Understanding that both parties come from different belief systems/world views and being willing to ask questions and listen is such a key aspect of increasing our abilities in this regard. Make it a fantastic day!