I know you believe you understood what you think I said……


Like many my desire to constantly learn comes from my parents. Both spent their youth in the Depression years in the coal-mining regions of West Virginia and Kentucky. My father was the first in his family to graduate from college. My mother’s dream was for her four children to graduate from college, an opportunity she did not have. Their joy in my learning journey fueled my desire to learn more. Beyond learning, though, it is my father’s advice on the importance of communicating impacts me still today. “It doesn’t matter what you know if you are not able to communicate it.”

The value of knowing is only realized if you can effectively communicate it to someone else, resulting in your mutual understanding. My father gave me the desire to take responsibility for what I communicate, to take the perspective of others and think about how they would hear what I would be saying. From what perspective would someone hear my words? What filters would they place on my sentences? What would my words mean to them? How could I frame my thoughts to get others to really understand what I was saying?

Early in my career I realized my responsibility didn’t stop with how I shared thoughts. Often I found others not taking the same level of responsibility when sharing their thoughts. The same listening filters I looked for in sharing with others are ones I carried myself, and I needed to apply them to strive to hear what others intended.

Noted economist John Maynard Keynes met President Roosevelt in 1934 to share his thinking that government stimulus was required to fuel the economy, even if it meant running a deficit. After their meeting, Roosevelt called Keynes more a mathematician than a political economist and it was three more years and another recession before Roosevelt adopted Keynes thinking to improve the economy. Today business schools teach this as case study, questioning whether Keynes was at fault for not effectively communicating his ideas or Roosevelt at fault for not seeking to understand.

Lift your effectiveness and the effectiveness of those you with whom you communicate through deliberate practices focusing on others – their perspectives, context and filters – as you communicate.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” – Peter Drucker, management consultant

“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” – Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and author

“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” – James Cash Penney, businessman and entrepreneur       

“I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey, author  

This article was originally posted to Kerry Stover’s LinkedIn page.

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Our ability to inspire, engage, connect, motivate people starts with what learning what is important to them and why. Two ears, 2 eyes (intent doesn’t always match impact), one mouth fueled with curiosity and compassion is a great foundation.


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