“I’m responsible for what I say . . . not what you understand.”
I’ve seen this quote floating through the social media channels and was conflicted as to how I felt about it.
At first glance, it makes sense. Of course, we all try to speak clearly and choose our words carefully such that others understand what we are saying. The meaning is clear to the speaker, but the listener may be hearing a cacophonic drone akin to Charlie Brown’s teacher.
There are myriad reasons for this breakdown in communication including social/cultural differences, language barriers, fundamental misunderstanding of the process, varying levels of education/training, stress/tension on either side, NOISE and/or CHAOS on either side . . .
We’re all humans (I think), and we all have our own stories humming along in the background of everything we do. At any given time, folks can be dealing with grief, anger, euphoric bliss, sickness, burnout, vacation . . . and doing our best to continue with our work keeping a calm, cool, and collected demeanor. We’re masking our inner and personal stories from our professional stories because we don’t want personal drama to interfere with our professional performance.
So . . . whose ultimate responsibility is it to ensure complete and accurate communication with clear understanding?
I believe we are ALL responsible, so I take equal responsibility when communicating to be certain that we both are understanding the same things. “That duck really IS red.”
It’s a cop-out to quip: “I’m responsible for what I say . . . not what you understand.”
Of course, we do have mechanisms to help us in this regard.
Say, for example, the communication is a complex negotiation between a Buyer and a Seller for the sale of a house (or anything) . . . We create WRITTEN proposals (Offers) which hopefully coagulate into Binding Agreements (AKA “Contracts”) which (we hope) define all of the requirements of both parties in clear terms.
These Binding Agreements set up a series of events (Inspections and resolution, Appraisal, Title Search, Loan Approval etc) which culminate at a CLOSING on a specified date at which point the Buyer brings the money promised, and the seller brings the clear title promised, and they exchange.
All of this is fine and dandy until “Failure to communicate” rears its ugly head.
“YOU didn’t replace the windows in the living room. they are still FOGGED, and we are not closing until YOU replace them.”
“But YOU didn’t say to replace the windows . . . The Repair Amendment says that we are to replace the SEALS of the windows, so that’s what we did.”
The seller fixed the functional problem (Compromised Vapor Barrier between the window panes), yet the Buyer’s concern was the unsightly fog between the panes.
At this point, it’s easy for everyone to get their panties in a wad and churn up a great pissing contest of who’s right and who’s wrong, but why does it matter who’s fault it is when it truly is EVERYONE’s fault for failing to communicate effectively?
THIS is the time to gather and have a rational discussion to determine CLEAR understanding of everyone’s expectations and then to find an agreeable solution . . . followed by a CLOSING!
All along the way, we have a Buyer who wants to buy and a seller who wants to sell, and it is up to the professional to keep the intended end atop everyone’s mind and rise above the pettiness of finger pointing and name calling.
Life’s too short . . .
Stephen Covey said: “Seek to understand!”
I recommend a higher level command: “Seek understanding!”