7 Tips to Clarify a Situation or Issue
The other day I was making dinner and my son, Christopher, came up to me crying and fussing about something. I was in a hurry and said I would get to him as soon as I was finished making dinner. He wouldn't let up and I, in exasperation, decided to finally ask him to calmly tell me what he wanted. He wanted to help me make dinner. In my haste to make dinner, I hadn't heard him correctly and assumed he was fussing about something else. Misunderstanding for sure. We all have misunderstood someone or something because we didn't take the time to communicate clearly. We may have made assumptions based on very little information and created a product that was not what our client, partner, or child wanted. All is not lost as long as all parties agree to rectify the situation by implementing the following
1. Active listening: Pay attention to the other person's perspective, and repeat what you hear to confirm understanding. We all need to work to be more present when communicating with others so that we get the right information. Had I stopped and listened to my son the first time, I could have heard what he wanted.
Ask questions: Clarify any unclear points and seek to understand their perspective. This is so very key. I have in the past failed to ask enough questions and get a full picture of what was needed. This was the case with my son but has also happened with clients. It is better to ask 100 questions and have pure clarity than to ask a few and have problems.
Avoid blaming: Focus on the problem at hand, not blame each other. Blame is very unproductive and will increase tension. Your goal is to cooperate and co-create. No need to blame yourself either as that just makes you feel bad. Your efforts now should be on the solution to the issue and go back and follow tip #2.
Find common ground: Identify shared goals and areas of agreement. This will go back to asking questions and taking note of the response. My son wanted to be with me and help make dinner. I wanted to equally be with him and have dinner made. Yes, I know he is 4 and not a Michelin-star chef and it takes twice as long to make dinner but it was important to him to be with me (awwww).
Seek a resolution: Work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. The dinner was pretty much ready so there was nothing my son could do but I did promise him that the next time I would make sure to ask and get his help. He was agreeable but very firm that he wanted to help me.
Compromise: Be willing to give and take in finding a solution. In a client/customer situation, it might be a refund, rework for free, or another product replacement. In Christopher's case, he was open to hugs and play after dinner. Kids are often easier to please than adults.
Keep open communication: Regularly check in to prevent future misunderstandings.
Communication doesn't need to be difficult just open and honest. Listening and asking questions is a best practice we can all work on daily.