Clear, effective communication is usually concise. There are times when effectiveness is increased by adding soft phrases to frame your message or create context. Delivering your message in a way that can be understood is your responsibility. Here are some of the phrases that do the hard work of building context:
“I understand why that’s important to you . . .”
Yes, a denial of what’s important to them follows this phrase. The empathy the phrase communicates is its value. People want to feel that they are understood and that their thinking makes sense. If you provide additional information to increase their context you can move them forward more easily.
Whenever possible, you should avoid using the word “but” if you do not mean to negate the statement. (Think about how you would respond to “I love you, but . . . .”) Instead, go right into the context: “I understand why that’s important to you. The project requires that we comply with this regulation so we can’t take that approach.”
“I hear you.”
You can use this simple acknowledgment to bring closure to a discussion, especially one where your employee is not getting the thing they desired, and there is no other recourse. If you follow it with an immediate redirection, it works well. Something like, “I hear you. Let’s take a look at how we plan this differently next time.”
“Let me make sure I understand . . . (paraphrase what you heard)” or “Let me walk through the details to make sure we’re on the same page . . . (paraphrase what you understand next steps to be)” or “Let’s review the next steps before we leave . . . (paraphrase the next steps as you heard them)”
This is great for managing your team members, managing up and negotiating next steps with peers. It gives you the chance to clarify what you’ve heard. It reduces the chances of wasted time and resources from misunderstandings. It also says to the person, “I was listening to you.”
“Do you have any questions or concerns about this? Anything?” or “Are there any things that may keep you from meeting your goal?”
These work best with team members and give them the chance to gain clarity. If you have an employee who may be reluctant to appear like they don’t understand, emphasize that you want to hear questions and don’t mind giving the answers.
These phrases keep your team members feeling appreciated. This allows them to hear information and feedback in the way you intend for it to be heard. And taking the time to gain clarity and shared understanding is the best way to reduce frustration from the miscommunication that can always happen in a group dynamic.