HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE?
I was listening to a podcast a few days ago and their discussion brought my attention to communication. Communication is so much more than just speaking and listening. Steven Covey said “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” In my opinion, he is correct. Let’s break that down a little bit.
What, really, is listening? How do you listen? Are you completely focused on the speaker and trying to understand what they mean? Or are you listening to the speaker and trying to figure out what you are going to say back to them?
Or maybe you’re not listening at all. Maybe you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, what’s next on your to-do list, or focusing on what the speaker is wearing.
There is a big difference between hearing and listening. And there are times when each of these skills are the appropriate response.
When to Listen
So, when should you listen? Truthfully, you should probably listen the vast majority of the time. Listening involves sincerely focusing on what the speaker is trying to tell you by listening to what they are saying and paying attention to their body language (such as facial expressions and posture). The speaker is trying to give you information about something they feel is important that you know or understand.
Does this mean that you have to agree with them? Of course not. We all have our own perceptions and beliefs. We all see things a little differently. What we need to keep in mind though, is that everyone has a right to their opinion and to express it.
Understanding what they are saying will help you understand the person better. And it might even help you look at something from a different perspective.
Isn’t that what you want to happen when you are the speaker?
When to Hear
There are probably times when it is ok to just superficially hear what someone is saying. Some of those times might include if they are discussing something technical that you have the necessary base knowledge to understand. (However, it might be a better option to just tell them you don’t really understand and ask them to explain it in simpler terms). Another time might be when someone is repeating themselves, such as when they’ve told you about the same event several times already.
I still maintain that truly listening is the best way to engage with others. I believe we should always treat others the way we would want to be treated in the same situation.
Have you ever thought about why you communicate in the way you do? Where do we learn to express ourselves? If we think of communication in terms of human development we would see that we learn to communicate by modeling the behaviors of those around us as children, our parents, siblings, and extended family.
Remember, communicating is more than just speaking and hearing.
Did your family have open communication? Were you allowed to express your feelings? Were those feelings validated? Or were those feelings discounted and unwanted? Give this some thought… How do you think your initial communication style impacts your communication style now?
Can we modify our initial communication style?
I do believe that we can. However, I do not think it is an easy task.
- The first step is to be aware of your communication style…do you listen or do you just hear?
- The next step is to identify how you would like to communicate?
- What changes would you like to make to your current style?
- Then you need to practice these changes.
- This is the hardest part.
- Just remember that you don’t have to change everything at once
- Pick one thing that you want to change.
- When you’ve identified the one thing you want to work on, practice it, daily, every day, until it comes naturally; until it becomes your style.
- Then pick another area to change and repeat the above process.
I know that this is not easy to do. It will take a lot of deliberate effort on your part and it will take time. You’re going to mess up, you’re going to slip back into your old style of communication from time to time. Expect it, Accept it.
That does not mean you have failed. Far from it! Just being able to recognize it is a major accomplishment. However, once you’re able to recognize that you slipped back into your previous style, you can correct it and do it differently the next time.
Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the way you communicate. You may be completely satisfied with your communication style. I’m just giving you some tips in case you want to make changes.