How Clarifying & Confirming Saved a Relationship

“What did you mean when you said __________?”

This statement saved me from ruining a relationship.

Have you ever reacted poorly to something someone said in an email? I remember one email in particular from a colleague where 95% of her email was fine, then there was one statement that really offended me. I mean, I went from zero to ten on the ‘ticked off meter’ in a heartbeat. I couldn’t believe she would say such a thing to me! I hit reply and started typing back an emotionally charged response. As I was about to hit send, I paused and said out loud, “I really can’t believe she would say such a thing.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, it caused me to pause a bit more, which gave me enough time to think a little more rationally. I decided to clarify what she meant rather than send my loaded email. I backed out my highly emotional response and instead asked, “Can you clarify what you meant when you said _______.” Then I hit send.

A few minutes later, I received her response. It was nothing even close to how I had perceived it. I had taken what she said completely out of context. Had I sent my initial emotionally charged email, I would have caused some significant damage to our relationship. I’m so glad I took the time to pause and seek further clarification on what she meant rather than responding emotionally.

We lose a lot of the message when we are communicating by email. Tone, emotion, and body language are mostly missing when we just have the written word, and research shows that most of the meaning in the message lies within these elements. I’m sure many of you can relate to this quick story and have a similar one you could share.

We teach Effective Communication skills in our Core Leadership Program, specifically in our Voice & Ears modules. If you would like to increase your effectiveness as a leader and learn more about communicating better with others, consider registering for our next Core Leadership Program.

~Michelle Cummings, CEO & Founder, Personify Leadership

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