One of the most important communication skills a genuine leader should possess is the ability to check your own perceptions about what other people are saying (verbally or nonverbally). Simply put, perception-checking involves directly asking another person for clarity to ensure you’re understanding what they’re trying to say with their words or body language.
In the workplace, there are multiple advantages to perception-checking. However, many people are not aware of this communicative strategy and either do it unconsciously or never at all. To engage in more conscientious conversations with your employees or clients, here are some unique benefits to practicing perception-checking:
Avoid Misunderstandings with Other People
Conflict in the workplace can lead to a variety of problems, such as productivity losses, resentment among colleagues, and even higher employee turnover rates. To prevent these problems from occurring under your leadership, perception-checking can help you avoid misunderstandings and promote respectful and effective communication habits among your team.
To engage in perception-checking, simply start by summarizing what another person said to you, then ask if that is the main point they’re trying to get across. You might be surprised by the number of times another person might rephrase things differently to communicate with you more effectively. It might seem cumbersome at first, but over the long run, perception-checking behaviors will help you reduce negativity and misunderstandings in the office.
Improve Employees’ Morale
Nobody likes to be repeatedly misunderstood or ignored. Perception-checking can naturally boost your employees’ morale because: 1) it demonstrates you’re paying attention to what they’re saying, and 2) it gives them an opportunity to clarify their ideas, thoughts or suggestions if you didn’t fully understand what they were saying.
As a leader, it’s your job to start the practice of perception-checking, then use your status as a workplace role model to encourage other employees to practice it, even when you’re not around. Even if your perceptions are usually accurate, it’s still useful to continue doing this to prevent any costly or time-consuming mistakes later on.
Increase Your Own Self-Awareness
Perception-checking might be about interpreting other people’s messages, but it can also help you become a better listener. By getting in the habit of checking your own perceptions of another person’s verbal or nonverbal communication, you’ll quickly realize when you aren’t listening well or struggling to connect with a client or coworker. It’s not a perfect solution to all misunderstandings, but nevertheless, perception-checking is a crucial communication skill that all leaders should practice and encourage in the workplace.