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Author's profile photo Bob McGlynn

Let me see if I understand where you’re coming from

There is an interesting blog about 8 One-Liners that Stick; short phrases that can be effectively used when communicating with others. Some of the phrases are: “I’ve heard good things about you”, “I think we have something in common”, and the title of this blog.

While these were some interesting suggestions, what got my attention was some of the reader’s reactions to that column. Several comments suggested that using those lines sounded cheesy or insincere, with one strong reaction being, “Don’t stroke my ego, get me results”. What a great opening to write about getting results in communication.

Not every style of communicating, nor any one-liners, will work in every situation. It is not just what you say, it’s how it is heard, and interpreted. The language of business is patterned to influence people and frame words in a way to elicit a desired response from the audience. Whether those words are influential or manipulative depend on the interpretation of the listener. 

In technical areas, there is a necessity for precise and factual words to be clearly understood. Getting to solutions means talking about the “unvarnished truth” rather than cloud the meaning in hyperbole. When outside of technical areas, this style can be perceived as blunt or even rude. Again, it’s more the audience’s ear rather than the speaker’s words that determine the effect or result of the conversation.

Here are five tips for better communication.

1) Know yourself, but don’t just be “me”. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Who you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.” Yes, you are who you are and it is important to be genuine. Please don’t use that as an excuse for how you interact with people. All of us know, and try to avoid, those people who are rude, or manipulative, or unpleasant. All of us want to work for and with people who inspire us, educate and inform us, and help us with our careers. The former are only worried about themselves while the later look at how to benefit others. When you behave in ways that benefit others, you become successful as well.

2) Be mindful of cultural difference. Certainly the attitudes, assumptions, preferences, and even values of other people can be very different than your own. The great benefits businesses are receiving from the diversity of the workplace has also required us to be mindful of the cultural differences based on geography. There is also the cultural differences within organizations that are more departmental or role-based in nature. The Geek Gap, for example, explains the profound cultural clash between technology folks (the Geeks) and business folks (they call Suits).  

3) Thinking before speaking. It’s not just politicians and celebrities that have to worry about every word that comes out of their mouth. Reputation and trust takes time to build and, in no time at all, be ruined with the wrong words. Executives have to choose their words carefully for that reason. Just think; everything your boss says, or doesn’t say, is hyper-analyzed by everyone. While you may be all for honestly, there is that fine line the boss always walks; trying to be open and forthcoming while being conscious of sensitive and privileged information. Plato said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

4) If you can’t build a bridge – start swimming. Don’t give up with communication problems. Since friction between people or groups can be managed but not eliminated, you will find yourself in uncomfortable situations. Even though you may be breaking a sweat, conflict can be positive when dealt with constructively. This is where trust and reputation come in again. Continue to strive for positive outcomes and be willing to give as well as take.

5) Stay Positive. Negative comments do more harm to the reputation of the speaker, even if the complaint is valid. Four questions to ask yourself before being negative can be found in a recent blog by Marshall Goldsmith.

Let me see if I understand where you are coming from. Good communication is what we want from our bosses and need with our co-workers. Just as our individual success is dependent upon other people, groups, and departments, organizational success is dependent on all of those areas working together effectively. Since communication is about dialogue, not monologue, what tips or comments do you have about using communication to get better results? 

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Negative comments can be as a stress test of ideas. If you have a good idea and idea survives a negative comment storm, it's going to be stronger. We say in Argentina: Anything that does not kill you makes you stronger.
      Author's profile photo Bob McGlynn
      Bob McGlynn
      Blog Post Author
      You are correct allowing feedback on ideas. Far too often, there are considerations or obstacles that the original team missed. Encouraging a broad range of people to share their perspectives can go a long way in identifying flaws or holes in an idea or project. The earlier these problems can be identified, the quicker (and cheaper) they are to fix.
      And while these comments can be perceived as negative, since they challenge aspects of an idea, it is a very constructive and necessary part of any planning process.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      When I present an idea to the team and I don't listen any negative comment or aspect I begin to suspect. In fact most succesfully ideas some time it begining with a great opposition. Big ideas are those that change something doing it better or smarter, that part you are changing has to make some noise.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Bob:

      Nice blog...As the last one...It makes me think about who I act when I'm with another people...As you say...It's important to be honest and sincere, because that generates trust and friendship.



      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      “People appreciate people who are appreciative.” – Neil Resnick quoted on
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I once heard someone bravely say to their project sponsor, "You keep telling me that you are communicating, but all I hear is you talking a lot."

      Communication is a word that is over used in today's work environment.  We tend to think that if we put our message on a PowerPoint slide, we have communicated it.  If our graphics are fancy and our numbers look good, we are sure our audience really understood our message.  However, as an audience member with an often short attention span, I encourage all communicators to keep it simple.  I am not impressed by your fancy slides - I just want to clearly understand what you are trying to tell me and what you want me to do with the information.  Along the same lines, I encourage all communicators to verify understanding of your message.  Simply standing in front of a group and blurting words without asking for questions or verifying clarity once the presentation has ended leads to misinterpreation and risk of dupliate or unnecessary action.

      Remembering to hold a two-way conversation with your audience will help to keep the talking at a minimum and communication at its finest.

      Author's profile photo Bob McGlynn
      Bob McGlynn
      Blog Post Author
      Really agree with you. Far too often a speaker is focusing on what they say rather than what is understood. The best communicators want to understand the audience and have the audience understand what they are trying to say.

      Any insights that you can offer on how to talk with the project leader so that they can better understand and improve their communication skills?