Changing your instructions is risky
My long-suffering husband has a communications lesson for you. Recognize that your first message is most easily absorbed by your listeners. If you change your message midstream, your listeners may not hear you. To make sure your message gets across, ask them to confirm their understanding of the new message.
“Park your car outside the garage tomorrow, so I can get my tires,” said my husband on a Thursday morning. Okay, I said. We spoke a bit more. I guess my attention strayed because I ran into trouble the next day.
On Friday, I parked where my husband had indicated. However, when my husband arrived home, he asked “Why did you park there?”
Me: “Because you asked me to.”
Husband: “No, I told you that you didn’t have to park there after all.”
Me: “You did?” Apparently my husband’s changed instructions hadn’t registered in my head. Perhaps I was trying to make up for my poor performance that I described in “Instructions for a bad wife.” I should have confirmed my understanding at the end of our conversation. I’ll do that next time. At least, I’ll try. I seem to have a blind spot for my husband’s parking instructions.
What’s the lesson for you?
If you change your mind after giving initial instructions, don’t count on your listeners absorbing the new information. This might apply, for example, if you start by suggesting selling one fund, but then switch to another recommendation.
What can you do to reinforce your change?
- Repeat your new instructions.
- Explain why you changed your mind.
- Ask your listeners, “Do you understand my new instructions?”
- Consider putting your instructions in writing.
This may be overkill, if your listeners are more attentive than me with my husband. However, if the new instructions are important, you’ll be glad you took extra steps to ensure your listeners’ comprehension.