Sometimes you just have to communicate complicated things. The look of confusion on the other person’s face and the back and forth that eventually causes you to get confused are almost a given. Of course it is equally frustrating if you don’t realize what you are explaining is going to be challenging to understand.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if ‘complicated’ is the correct label:
- Is the information within the expertise of the other person?
- Does the person have the foundational knowledge they will need to ‘peg’ what you are sharing?
- Are there less than three points of required understanding (look for connectors like and/or/if /then)?
As an example: My sister recently asked me to proof read some code she had written to address a problem she was having at work. This request was certainly outside my current expertise. However, once upon a time, a long, long time ago – I could read and write code. The code she sent me had numerous and/or connectors. However, several days before she had explained the problem she was having. Because I knew what she was trying to solve (I had a ‘peg’) and I have some knowledge of code, she was able to ask me to look at what she had written without preamble.
If the answer to one or more of those questions is “no” – you will need to stop and provide background information or break the information down into smaller pieces to be successful.
Expertise. If the information you want to share is outside the expertise of the other person, ask yourself why you are sharing it. Your answer will determine how you proceed. Are you trying to increase their knowledge? Then you are teaching. Are you trying to get an unbiased opinion? Then you are risking an invalid response if they don’t understand. Many organizations make the mistake of sending out memos sharing information that the recipient does not have the expertise to understand or incorporate it into their work. Then management complains that workers are “stuck in their ways and unwilling to change”. Don’t fall into that trap.
Having a place to put the information. Someone doesn’t have to be an expert in a subject but they do need to know enough about it to be able to process what you are telling them. The best example of this I can share is when I took calculus in college. I took the prerequisite pre-calc and the next semester I signed up for calculus. I was two weeks into the class before I realized there was a pre-calc-B in between pre-calc and calculus. I spent many, many hours in the grad-assistance’s office struggling to gain enough traction to succeed. If the information you are sharing is going over the other person’s head, the communication is going to fail. Don’t leave them scrambling to figure it out.
Multiple points. The human brain is an amazing piece of equipment. But too many variables at one time will absolutely cause it to shutdown and stop processing information. When what you are sharing comes with and/or, if/then statements or is many separate paragraphs make sure you explain them one at a time and check for understanding before you move on. Asking “do you have any questions” or “do you understand” is not your best option. If it is feasible, ask the person to explain it back to you. I knew I was going to pass calculus when I was able to lead a study group. At the end make sure you leave the door open for the person to come back for clarification. If you expect them to just get it on the first try, they are likely to try to fake it. We all know what a mess that can make.
When you have information to share with someone, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. You are much more likely to approach the conversation in a way that creates communication rather than confusion if you have a basic understanding of where they are, how they will react and what you want them to do with it when you are done.
I wish you the most from your potential!
If you would like Doc Robyn to work with you or your team to achieve greater success, email her at DocRobyn@ChampPerformance.com
Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka Doc Robyn) is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. She has a doctorate in psychology and is the CEO of Champion Performance Development (www.ChampPerformance.com); an organization that enables her to combine her skills in executive coaching , organizational development and sports psychology, with her passion for public speaking to show clients how they can achieve success in every aspect of their lives. Doc Robyn founded the Stop The Drama! Campaign, authored the book Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams (www.StopTheDramaNow.com), and speaks for high schools, colleges and coaches’ conventions to reach students with the same skills that bring success to her business clients. She is a sought after expert in leadership, teamwork, communication and conflict resolution for radio, TV and print and is passionate about sharing high performance skills proven to assist teams and individuals in achieving the most from their potential. As an avid supporter of people striving to attain the highest level of performance, Doc Robyn lives by the motto, “Worst case, I want to be neutral to everyone I meet. My goal is to make a positive difference.”