Everyone is a communicator. What and how effective one communicates determines many things that contribute to or detract from one’s quality of life. It determines the kind of car we drive, the house we live in and perhaps even the neighborhood where we reside. It can and many times does influence the level of health care and the ability to negotiate everything. Your ability to communicate largely affects your happiness. When we communicate effectively we can make and keep friends. Good communicators come across as honest and trustworthy.
Good communication of course begins with good listening skills. I recognized long ago that if people are arguing and/or yelling, no one is listening. Everyone is just trying to overpower the other or think about what they will say next to prove their point.
To listen we have to get in sync with the other person. Is the mood casual or serious? Is this business or is it small talk like people make at parties. Genuine listening implies that we understand, support and/or are learning about something and that we are enjoying the person talking in this interaction. Body language that shows a frown or scowling look implies that we are bored or judging the talker not worthy of our time and attention. We may be just waiting our turn to talk and thinking about what we want to say.
Other things that make listening nearly impossible include but are not limited to:
- Comparing-always comparing you or someone you know to the person who is talking. So you are really not giving them your attention, you are comparing them to yourself or someone else you know.
- Mind reading-Instead of really hearing what the other person is saying, you are thinking they may think you are not as bright as they are, or judging you in some other non-complimentary manner.
- Day dreaming-You are half listening and the talker says reminds you of something and your mind goes off on a “rabbit trail” about something unrelated to what the talker is saying. Sometimes they ask you to respond and you have no idea what he is talking about.
- Giving advice –before they get through telling the story, you are ready to tell them what you think they should do about it. Sometimes you may go on a tangent about how you handled something similar. This frequently comes with the addition of embellishment as you tell them that yours was bigger, worse or some other exaggerated story or your self-importance that is bound to take priority over their situation.
- Half-listening-filtering for what you perceive as the important points and letting them rattle on about the rest while you are standing there wishing you was somewhere (anywhere) else.
- Arguing with them or correcting the details or what they are saying.
- One-up positioning-making sure that you know more about the subject than they do or that your position is more important than theirs is etc.
- The consistent need to be right about everything.
All of the above techniques say to your subject. “I am placating you and what you have to say is of no real interest to me.” This invalidates a person and in so doing you will inevitably make yourself unimportant to them. We never know what is going on with that other person and by making them feel important we might develop a nice friendship or even a good business acquaintance or resource. To develop reliable and lasting friendships we must learn to be good communicators. Listening is the first big step. Once we have mastered that I will bring more blogs on tips for effective communication.
- Learn to paraphrase-people like to hear your version of what they have said or suggested and they will feel more understood and appreciated if you can do this. (It also helps you to remember what they have said to you).
- Give some feedback. After you have let them know that you not only heard but understood what they said, you may give your response. Just remember to be kind and supportive when you do so.
- Try to remember where that person is coming from because it may be from a position of disappointment or pain. Everyone has challenges and kindness is always a good communication tool.
- Practice mindful listening. Listen as if your very life depended on it or your child’s success. The more you practice filtering out all distractions as you focus on your subject the more you will be able to do it when it is needed.
- Be sure to give appropriate eye contact and it is good to lean forward a little too.
- Show continued interest by asking appropriate questions.
As you learn to be a more effective communicator, you will find that you enjoy it more. You will feel more comfortable in social settings and can practice your new skills in family gatherings as well.
A new group is beginning in September and I will be sharing 100 ideas to broaden and increase communication skills. The group is geared to upwardly mobile professional women. We will meet on Tuesdays at 5 pm for an hour and a half with a social hour following to practice what we have learned. I hope you will take advantage! More later——————Carole