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To Understand: Clients, Colleagues & Kids demand it.

Written by Suzanne F. Stevens, CSP, Chief Edge Optimizer

Have you ever said: “Explain it to me as if I were a six year old”?

Now, have you ever heard a six-year-old say to you: “Explain it to me AND make sure I understand it”? Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being in the company of my niece. I imagine that she is similar to many six year olds, curious, with a lot of questions. “What is that?” “How does that work?” “What does vandalism mean?”

I was surprised by her astute comments that acknowledged not only the need to hear, but also the need to understand. Her request to “explain it to me so I understand it” is a statement that, if asked in business, would drastically reduce the amount of miscommunication that occurs when leading a team or selling to a client.

As leaders and sales people, wouldn’t it be nice to communicate to many of our colleagues or prospects: “Explain it to me so that I understand it”? This is what communication is all about. To put such a demand on our fellow communicator, however, may compromise the perception of our own intellect.

What can we do to ensure that, when communicating, both parties actually understand the intention of the communication and the clear action to take?

In communication, our dialogue may veer off course. This happens because we are going back and forth without completely understanding the other person’s perspective prior to providing information. We often see this occur when we lead, or in sales and service where we are anxiously trying to get to our message without completely understanding the perspective of the other person.

Before we can decide if someone understands us, we need to understand what he or she thinks, knows, and experienced in regards to the topic that is being discussed. By understanding, their view of the situation, circumstance, or information we are much better prepared to provide them with information that they will understand. Got it? 

At Ignite Excellence, we use a concept called “probe to understand.” This technique can be used to understand the real reason a colleague feels or does something. This technique is also used in sales to isolate a situation or an opportunity.

The seven-step process to “probe to understand” is:

1. Ask the other person their perspective on a particular situation
2. Ask what other criteria is important within or to their perspective, and/or in making a particular decision
3. Ask them to prioritize that criteria
4. ‘Dig Deep’ – meaning probe deeply and logically on the specific issues or cues identified above. Ask questions to isolate the REAL reasons for their perspective or decisions. Often initial reasons are the ones they are most comfortable with sharing. By ‘probing’ we create rapport, which often leads to honest answers being shared, not always the answer we want to hear.
5. Clarify answers to ensure no confusion or uncertainty, then summarize. 
6. Lastly, provide a possible solution to the situation, problem, or opportunity.
7. To make your recommendation even more influential, add evidence of previous success. The more specific, the better. 

After you have completed the first five steps, you will have acquired a lot of knowledge about the other person’s perspective. That knowledge will lead to your UNDERSTANDING. When you provide a solution, based on what you understand, inspired by your colleague or client, through identifying their criteria and priorities, you will be in a much better position to provide a solution that they too UNDERSTAND. More importantly, they will feel compelled to act upon the solution. 

Kids are so smart. 

Ignite Your Edgeness™
(An enhanced version of you realized when pushing your edge.)

When communicating to someone, ask yourself: “Do I understand enough about their perceptions and situation to provide council on how to move forward?” If not, dig deep. Probe to understand their perspective. If you understand, it will lead to their understanding.

 ***

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Suzanne F Stevens CSP*, Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host, Co-producer and Chief Edge Optimizer for Ignite Excellence Inc. Group. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment. To find out more visit: www.suzannefstevens.com. Suzanne is one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is in the exclusive 12% of speakers who have this designation internationally.