It happens all the time: we think we’re being understood, but we’re not. And we have no idea. We often don’t bother to check to make sure people understand us, even when it’s critical. It doesn’t help that most people don’t want to admit they don’t get it, especially to the leader.
You may get a nod or even an “I understand,” but they still don’t really understand. It always helps to confirm understanding in a way that’s safe for your listener. If they’re silent or you can tell they’re not with you, stop and verify even if you’re not finished.
Taking a few minutes to check for understanding can potentially save everyone a significant amount of time wasted on misunderstandings.
Simply asking, “What do you think?” does not check understanding. Usually, all you’ll get is a “sounds good” or similar response. Instead, invite them to ask clarifying questions. For example, “What questions do you have about this?” Try asking them questions about what you’re saying rather than asking them for their opinion or to repeat it. For example, you can pose “what if…” scenarios to help them think about it more.
EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP ACTION PLAN
How will you verify you’re being understood?
What can you do to check your understanding with others?
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
~ Peter Drucker