In a previous blog, we covered hand-off communication and touched on the concept of grasping. You know that clear communication is essential no matter what your industry or job role. But many people confuse confidence and repetition with grasping. In this article, we’ll answer the question “What is grasping?”
Grasping involves not only how people understand what’s being communicated, but the timing of the communication as well. If you pass a hot cup of coffee to another person, you aren’t going to let go of the cup until you’re sure the other person has the coffee literally in their grasp. The same is true when passing information to someone else—you want to ensure that what you’re saying is completely understood by another.
Determine the desired outcome
Before you begin exchanging information, be sure you know the desired outcome, whether it’s better customer service, continued excellence in patient care, or even speaking with your spouse. Like a chef preparing a mise en place, you want to have the best available options in your communication toolkit prepared in advance.
Use meaningful language
We use different types of language based on our audience. You’ve likely communicated differently with a patient as opposed to a doctor—or with a manager versus an office worker. And your communication style is probably different depending on how well you know an individual—you know how to speak their language. By tailoring your messaging to your respective audience, you increase your chances of that audience grasping your message.
Repeating the same information multiple times doesn’t necessarily guarantee your audience is grasping your message. What good is delivering a package to the wrong address? Similarly, you don’t want to just deliver a message, you want the audience to receive your message.
When you’re presenting information, you will often immediately see evidence of grasping. By observing your audience closely—whether one person or a group—look for facial expressions and body language that indicate confusion or hesitation. You may be tempted to postpone questions until you are finished speaking. Instead, you want to explore potential misunderstandings or disagreements as soon as you see these reactions.
Allow questions as soon as your audience has them. After all, you can’t succeed with step 2 if your audience didn’t grasp step 1.
Ask contextual questions
Yes or no questions are almost never effective to ensure your audience has grasped what you’re communicating, and they are often unhelpful in achieving the desired outcome. Instead, craft questions that look for specific, actionable responses. Here are two examples:
- Does everyone understand our new software? Instead, a less vague question might look like “What challenges do you see in transitioning to our new software, and how will it affect our team and our customers?”
- Can you meet this deadline? This question doesn’t take into account what it might take to do so. Consider an alternative like “What are the details we’ll need to focus on to meet this deadline, and how does it fit within your existing workload?”
The bottom line is, be sure you aren’t just throwing information at people and leaving them to figure out the details. Break down your message into parts, communicate them separately, and ensure you’ve checked that your message is being grasped before you move on.