Have you ever felt misunderstood? We all have. That’s why perception checking is such an important skill. 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.

It’s a cornerstone of effective communication. And it’s easy. The next time someone explains something to you, repeat back what they said and ask if you understood them correctly. And the next time you think you know the reason behind someone’s actions, ask for clarification. It’s that simple.

In the workplace, there are multiple advantages to perception checking. Here are some of the most important ones:

Avoiding misunderstandings

Perception checking helps anyone pay better attention to what others are saying and retain that information. To engage in perception checking, simply start by summarizing what another person says 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 can result in more effective communication.

Improving 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 leader to encourage other employees to practice it, even when you’re not around.

Increasing your own self-awareness

Perception-checking might be about interpreting other people’s messages, but it can also help you become a better listener and observer. By getting in the habit of verifying 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.

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