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Avoiding “Thump, Thump”

Written by Gino Wickman on September 23, 2013

Implementers EOS

Avoid the thump thumpAs a leader, you must be a good communicator. There is a simple discipline that doesn’t require any time, investment, or learning on your part, and it will help you become a great communicator. In addition, it will help you avoid what one client calls “Thump, Thump.”

The discipline is called “echoing,” and it works like this. When face to face, after you’ve communicated a message to someone, simply ask the following question:

“Can you please tell me what I just told you just to make sure I’m communicating?”

Be prepared because, almost always, the message you will hear back is different than the message you delivered. This is great, because it is an opportunity for you to better and more fully communicate the message, and you’ll learn what you didn’t quite deliver well from what wasn’t heard the first time. Whatever the reason, you will learn to communicate better and always in the end have your message received.

Where “Thump, Thump” comes in is from a study that was done at Stanford University and written about in the book Made to Stick by the Heath brothers. It’s a study on communication in which college students sat across the table from each other and used their fingers to tap out on the table a list of songs they were given. Each person tapped out the songs, and the other listened and tried to guess the song. These were all very common songs such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Happy Birthday.” In the end, of all the songs tapped out, the listeners guessed only 2.5 percent correctly!

What’s fascinating about this study is that most people assume the guesser would guess more. What’s equally interesting is that the tapper, when tapping the song, hears it in his or her head in pitch-perfect form and is shocked that the listener can’t guess more.

The point is this: As a leader, when you are communicating your message, you see the message in vivid color and crystal clear detail and it sounds pitch perfect in your head. After “echoing,” you’re surprised the listener didn’t clearly get or hear the message you were delivering. The truth is, most of the time the listener is hearing something similar to the monotone tapping on the table, or “Thump, Thump,” as it is now known in the EOS world.

While this message might be painful for some to hear and some might even be in denial about their communication prowess, simply echoing after every delivered message is an immediate way to determine how well you are communicating your message.

Do it today the first time you communicate a message.

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