A Simple Question That Improves Even Good Communication


Communication is one of the hardest things to get right.

Between what the sender is saying and what the person who’s listening hears, there is almost always a breakdown. The thing said is not usually what the person heard.

Yet most people go on with what they’ve heard, try to create the change in the work to make something happen, mess up, and say, “But you said…” Well, that’s not what they said, it’s what was heard.

It’s important that both people involved in communication understand the thought of closing the communication cycle. So, what’s the communication cycle?

It basically means this: there’s a sender who sends out the communication, and there’s a receiver who hears the communication.

It goes like this: “Tommy, I need the XYZ report completed to the specifications I laid out in the bullets that are laid out in the form that I gave you and I need it by seven o’clock on Thursday.”

The person who receives that message says: “Okay, what I think I heard is that you need it by seven o’clock, I do have that form. I understand the specifications, I will complete it to those specifications, and I believe you need it by seven o’clock on Thursday. Do I have everything correct?”

You would think that this is the end of a communication cycle because this is already far better than what usually happens? But oh no! There’s more.

What needs to happen next? Now, the person who received the request needs to come back to the person and say: “Hey, you asked me to put together this project by seven o’clock on Thursday meeting these specifications. Here are the specifications. Here’s the project. Did this meet your conditions of satisfaction?” Not until the person says, “yes” is it a finalized product.

Think about the number of times when people say: “ Yes. I did that. It’s sitting in a folder on my desk… Yes, I did it. It’s saved on our intranet…” Who would know if it was done correctly?

Think about the amount of rework that gets done in companies because somebody doesn’t check to make sure it hits the conditions of satisfaction before they check the little piece on their to-do list.

If they instead would just say: “Did this meet the conditions of satisfaction?\” and get that “Yes.” Now, they know it is completed correctly, and the rework goes away.

That’s the way to close the communication cycle. And guess what? That is your job.

Leave a Reply