I’m Sorry…What?

“Your daughter has suffered a ‘mild concussion’,” said the attending physician after examining my 12-year old. We were assured that she would be OK but would have to spend several days at home with no screen time, limited reading and lots of brain rest for a week or two. Off we went to settle into our new, decidedly-not-normal routine.

As any parent of a child with a concussion will tell you, managing the idle time was as challenging as the injury itself. We downloaded audio books, pulled shades and closed curtains, took walks, and tried to manage hours that typically were filled with hectic schedules, multi tasking, and rapid fire information exchange through text, email, and social media.

Sometimes my daughter was tracking with our usual fast pace of communication. Other times, she’d need to catch up. Her responses were delayed, and I could see her struggling to understand or to try to remember a word. More than a few times she would look at me apologetically and say, “I’m sorry, what?” That’s when I realized she literally wasn’t understanding what I was saying to her: It was too much, too fast.

So I slowed my conversation down. I didn’t give her more information than she needed. I watched her reaction closely, to see if she needed me to try again. And I’d break a message down into smaller bits until she said, “Got it.”

Then it dawned on me: sometimes the communications we receive in the workplace can be equally overwhelming. Employees are expected to absorb and act on multiple streams of “important information and news” on a daily basis. Often that information is delivered too quickly and without the right context.

Just like my daughter, employees can sometimes be overwhelmed trying to process it all — especially during times of change or uncertainty. Do you need to slow it down for your team? Here are 3 ways to do that:

1. Keep messages crisp and simple. Remember, it’s not their job to get it; it’s your job to help them understand.

2. Provide the right context. Yours is not the only communication they’re getting; make things easy by helping them to know the why and what of your news.

3. Check for understanding. Did they “hear” you? Are they taking the appropriate actions? If you’re still hearing “I’m sorry…what?” You need to break it down and slow it down until you hear “Got it!”