My wife and I are coming dangerously close to having a three-nager. Our daughter loves to talk – sometimes it can feel like she wakes up and wants to make up for lost “talk-time” while she was asleep. I love listening to her talk, but sometimes it can be hard to connect with what she is saying.

For instance, she spent about a year of her life asking us if she could “yellow.” We slowly figured out that her wanting to “yellow” meant she wanted to color. Sometimes she asks us for something from the “tray trader.” We have come to discover that “tray trader” means refrigerator.

Communication breakdowns like this with our daughter are cute. When a communication breakdown happen with those you serve alongside it is anything but cute.

It is naïve to think that just because something has been communicated it has been understood with clarity. Often times between the ledge of communication and the ledge of clarity exists a valley gap of confusion. The mistake most of us make is to ignore this gap that stands in the way of us arriving at clarity.

Here is the deal – none of us are perfect. So, it makes sense that imperfect people would have imperfect communication. The question becomes how do you get out of this confusion gap? How do you build a bridge that will close the gap between hearing what a person says and understanding what they mean?

Here are 4 questions I find helpful for digging out of the gap and building a bridge to clarity:

  • What am I thinking? Am I assuming the best of the people around me? Am I assuming the worst? Brene Brown calls this the story you are telling yourself. It is important to know your mindset when diagnosing a communication breakdown.

Once I have spent time asking myself the above 3 questions I am ready to turn to action. Here is the final question to ask when attempting to go from confusion to clarity: