I am a good communicator. I write well. I communicate early and often. I hold my own when speaking from the stage, and even venture as far as to coach others in the art of public speaking. So it came as a huge surprise to me when I began to use my new Dragon® speech recognition software, that there were large gaps in my thought process. If you read my blog post from yesterday, you will have seen that retraining myself from keying my ideas to directly speaking them into the word processor has not proven to be as simple as I had believed it would be.
No, I’m not talking about the technical aspects of using the software. That will come. I’m talking about retraining myself to be as eloquent with the microphone as I am with the keyboard. Here’s the huge surprise. When I read back what I spoke into the word processor, I discovered that I left several thoughts unsaid. Incomplete. Although I knew what I was attempting to say (after all, they’re my ideas), when I put myself in the place of the reader I found that I had left out meaningful detail. No harm done – in editing I could just supply the clarifying detail.
Here’s what really got me thinking. If I missed meaningful detail when I spoke into my word processor, was I also missing meaningful detail when communicating with my client or my project team? Verbal communication is enhanced when speaker and listener exchange ideas and ask questions of each other. I know from personal experience, however, that the listener does not always ask questions. If that’s the case, are important ideas being lost?
I began to review in my mind situations where it appeared that miscommunication had occurred. Could it be that in communicating with the listener I had left out a significant item? Could the listener have assumed that she was receiving the entire idea, and therefore never asked a clarifying question?
For example, take the first sentence in the preceding paragraph: “I began to review in my mind situations where it appeared that miscommunication had occurred”. In proofing that sentence (which I had spoken into the word processor), it occurred to me that it would have more meaning for my topic on Project Management communication if it was written like so: “I began to review in my mind situations on my current project where it appeared that miscommunication had occurred.” Adding “on my current project” provided the narrower meaning that I wanted.
In communicating with project staff or client executive we do not have the luxury of speaking and then replaying our words, proofing them, and re-speaking them. We need to consciously be aware of how well we are communicating at all times, and to continuously practice improving our communication skills.
I’m going to love my new Dragon® software – not just as a time-saver over using the keyboard, but as a tool to help me improve my verbal communications on the project site and elsewhere.
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