We can control what we say and how we say it. But we cannot control what is heard. People hear through emotional biases and desires. Some people hear what we say and they agree. Other people hear our words, yet miss our meaning. And still others get upset by something they heard, but we did not say.

When presenting more effective ways to do something there will always be someone in the room who has been doing it wrong. Not everyone is prepared to admit their mistakes. Not everyone cares. In fact, some people want to be offended. That is what they expected.

The first time I had someone bolt from a room was over thirty years ago. I was giving a workshop in Anchorage, Alaska, and a middle aged woman flew out of the room giving me the finger. Back then, Alaskans spoke that way.

The instant that that happened I was shocked and confused. Long into the night I tried to piece together what I might have said. I had been talking about effective parenting. The next day I took my concerns to a man far wiser than me. After covering the details as best I could my friend simply said, “Stop trying to tear yourself apart. You did nothing wrong. Something you said opened the door to something she had been stuffing. The person you helped the most yesterday was the lady who bolted from that room.”

What I needed to see clearly was the old, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” When we speakers, teachers, leaders, and parents arrive early and break someone’s bubble of denial, it does not create a happy person. And when someone gets in your face for something they heard … simply say, “I am sorry that you feel that way” and no more. Attempts to reason with unhappy people usually lead to pits of nasty nothingness.

One of the first keys to more effective communications is being fully aware of this simple truth; you are responsible “to” your audience but not “for” them. You can control what you say and how you say it, but you cannot control what is heard.

To know that something you have said has gotten through without major modifications, you have got to ask. Not with, “Have I made myself clear?” That dangerous question sets the stage for unbelievable errors. Use open ended questions like “How does that make you feel?”

We need feedback to know that what we have said has gotten through. Without it we are flying blind.

Author's Bio: 

Dick Warn is a proven speaker, author, and coach. His Miracle Minute series is on the air in Southern California and Florida, and can be heard or read by going to www.TheMiracleMinute.com. His third book "Mystical Mentor" is helping people leave more of their troubles behind. You can read the first three chapters by going to www.mysticalmentor.com