In physics there are a number of basic laws that can never be broken. One of these laws is Newtons Third Law of Motion “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Three old men conversation

What does this mean?

A good example is billiards. If you strike the cue ball in the same spot with the same force and it strikes the coloured ball in the same spot it will always respond in the same way. If you want to change the outcome you need to change the way you play the shot. A bit to one side, a bit of spin, strike the ball with more force and the balls will always respond in an orderly and predictable manner.

In the world of physics if you take one action there is always a predictable opposing action. Unless you understand and apply the laws of physics playing billiards will be a challenge.

This is the same in communication.

There are basic laws of communication which, when understood and applied, will help you understand, influence and motivate others.

We were in the yard playing a game of backyard cricket with some friends. My son, about six at the time, was getting impatient waiting for his turn to bat. We could not get the batsman out. To everyone’s surprise he grabbed the ball and threw it over the fence into the next paddock. As you can imagine my natural reaction, and all the other ‘adults’ playing, was to chastise him. He broke into tears and ran into the house.

My wife came out shortly and asked “What is the rule about the batter being ‘out’ if the ball goes over the fence?”

Well – it appears my son had taken this rule literally “If the ball goes over the fence the batter is out” (or more commonly the ’6 and out’ rule) and could not understand why we had yelled at him. He just wanted a turn at batting.

What Your Customer Hears is What You Said

The number one rule in communication is “What the other person hears is what you said“. I was trying to close an order for bespoke software development for a small direct mail company. I really wanted to close the deal that day so I opened my mouth and used words like “don’t worry about payment straight away, lets just get started”.

The deal was closed and the project started. I was surprised, however, when my financial controller called me into his office and informed me the account was 90 days overdue. He asked me “Did you say to this client they would not have to pay until the project was completed?”

What I had meant was payment would be in our normal terms, however, if he were to agree that day to proceed with the project we would not require a deposit with the order. What the client had heard was he would not have to pay until the project was completed. Fortunately this story had a happy ending.

When pressure and stress influence what you want to say it is tempting to try and shortcut a conversation without considering what the other person may be hearing. Being prepared for these conversations is important and will reduce the stress levels for the person you are trying to influence as well as your own. The more important a conversation the more preparation is required to ensure the message you deliver is understood.

Today’s question and action

What you say and the words you use, in every part of your life, can have a big impact on others. Take time to think your conversations through and ask the following questions;

  1. Do you prepare for important conversations or just let them happen?
  2. What is it your customers might be hearing you say?
  3. Do you have a few relevant questions ready to check the message you have tried to communicate has been received?

When you have something important to communicate take time to think about what you are saying so when you hit the cue ball the coloured balls go in the pockets.

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