How to Gain Clarity
I have always thought that I talk “gooder” than others. I have thought of myself as a pretty good communicator. I have also thought about how to gain clarity, communication skills, and the art of helping others understand what I mean.
When I speak, it is clear, it makes sense… at least it does to me. But there is one thing that I have been wrong about: understanding the definition of communication.
The definition of communication is not being able to speak or write clearly.
The definition of communication is the art of gaining understanding.
This changes everything.
Communication is not the skill of making sense. It is the skill of making sure that the information others receive (see, hear, feel) is same as what is conveyed.
It is clarity transferred from one person to another.
As a public speaker, communicating is definitely a challenging skill to master.
Communicating is even more difficult to master in your role as a leader. Leadership requires clarity of understanding in vision (where we are going) and in what to do to get there, plus HOW we are going to do it.
A good friend of mine is a pastor of a growing church. People are coming to faith and getting mobilized onto mission. It’s fun. But he called me a few weeks ago and described a common problem. When people hear him speak, when he talks about vision and mission and strategy, people become inspired. They understand conceptually what he is leading them into. Sounds good right?
Well, here is the problem. The communication, the narrative, is inspirational. But, it is not operational. In other words, the communication makes people want more, but it doesn’t get specific enough about what to do.
Leaders must be able to communicate both inspirationally and operationally. When we are able to do both, we lead effectively.
So how? How do we gain clarity to both inspire and drive action?
Start with these three steps:
- Define 3-5 things that everyone will do. We call them “we will” statements. When people are inspired by vision, they often need to know what specific, consistent action you are leading them into.
Here are some examples:
“We will prioritize caring for people outside of our walls.” That statement allows the church to gain clarity on one of their priorities and to focus their resources.
“We will speak truth, one on one, with gentle love to each other.” This comes from a vision that inspires people to be loving and not conflict avoiders.
“We will become a generous church by giving 10% as individuals, families, and as a congregation.” This communication builds on the inspiration of generosity to get very specific.
If you want to gain clarity, your communication must be specific to what it is that you will do and who you will be.
- Commit yourself to as much personal face-to-face communication as possible. Let’s face it, we live in a world of informational overload. From social media to texting to email there are so many ways to communicate without actually being with someone. And clarity suffers for it.
For example, we how many times do we count on email to communicate what we feel. If you think about it, that’s silly really. Did you know that body language and tone of voice account for more than 80% of how people understand communication? No wonder there is such a lack of clarity and understanding when we use email, text or social media! If you want to gain clarity, use the written forms of communication to confirm and affirm, only. Everything else, anything new or challenging needs to be in the context of being present. Your body language and your tone will allow for greater understanding.
Are you counting on email or texts too much in your communication?
Feedback is your friend to gain clarity. Whenever possible, I want to ask the question, “What are you hearing me say?” or “Tell me if this makes sense to you?”
Ask questions. If you are leading a large group, you can ask people to write down their thoughts in response to what you said. This way, you will learn in a hurry whether you are transferring understanding.
Then just take it in. Don’t correct their listening skills. It’s not their fault that they don’t get it. Reiterate what you are trying to say, find new ways to say it. Ask questions and get to the point where you are on the same page. It’s hard work, but clarity is crucial. Feedback is your biggest friend.
To Gain Clarity:
- Define what you will do.
- Get face to face as much as possible.
- Gather feedback.
It is humbling, but it doesn’t matter if you talk “gooder” than others. What matters is that you gain clarity and get to understanding.
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When have you seen communication get in the way of your goals? What steps have you worked on to gain clarity? Let me know in the discussion below.