English is one of the richest languages in the world – the multitude of words with nuances of meaning is awesome. It’s astonishing that it’s become an international language, simply because there’s so much vocabulary to learn – and let’s not get started on the irregularities in English grammar!

Talking to a client we got on the subject of ‘understanding’. I think that the word ‘understand’ means that the person gets the message correctly and clearly. He says they may understand something, but not understand it correctly.

This all ties into the issues of whether the accurate understanding of your message is the responsibility of the receiver, or the responsibility of the sender (that’s you).

When you say something to someone else, it’s hard to say ‘did you understand that?’ without sounding as though you’re also saying ‘I think you’re a bit thick, so I’m checking up on you.’

Of course, even so, they will probably say ‘yes’ in any case. This might mean:

  • Yes, I understood what you said
  • No, I didn’t understand what you said, but I don’t want to look stupid
  • Yes, I understand what you said, but I’m not 100% sure that this was what you really meant.
  • Professional speakers are taught to repeat their points three times – just to make sure we all get it. It’s a good rule of thumb to follow.

    So, now you’ve read all this, did you understand what I thought I’d said, which was …

    Be clear, be concise and, if in doubt that you’ve been understood, say it again in different words!
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