Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Communication pt II

(If you are just joining this blog post for the first time, you might want to first read the Communication (part I) posting on Mon., Feb. 7th.)
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ – George Bernard Shaw-(I know that we ended the last post with this quote from Mr. Shaw already, but it is so fitting, I feel it needs repeating.)
Communication; it’s linked to so much. Through it we express who we are, what we think and what we need. Communication is also how we accomplish things or help others do the same. It’s something we do every day all day long, and because we do, we falsely believe that we have mastered it.
Most times we’re wrong.
Remember the activity your teacher might have done with you in school? She would whisper something to the first student; they would whisper it to the second student and so on and so forth? Until at the very end, the message was completely misconstrued from its original form?
Communication breakdown can be caused by so many things…and can really be quite detrimental.
Take for example the most recent gap in communication that resulted in this close call.
ABC News recently reported that on January 17th an American Airlines jumbo jet, carrying 259 passengers, narrowly missed two C17 military cargo planes. The jumbo jet was landing and the military planes were on takeoff. The difference between them at one point was only 200 ft.   
The cause? 
Miscommunication… between the two air traffic control towers. Ouch? Almost…
Again, quality of communication equals quality of life… It’s scary how significant it can be.
Regarding the questions in covered in the last post: I wonder which one aspect on the list you answered to be the most important in successful communication? 
Which one did you choose to put at the top of your list?
Ø  Verbal
Ø  Listening
Ø  Body Language
Ø  Tone of voice/inflection

Verbal seems to be the most commonly chosen answer. And if you did pick verbal, what percentage of communication did you guess it would be? It’s been a long discussed fact verbal is top in communication when it is really only about 7 % of and non-verbal is 93%. So, the other three on this list make up the majority of communication. Verbal is just a small portion of it.
And when it comes to face to face communication this holds true. Since what a person does while they are talking with you will say a lot about how well they are actually listening. If they are texting (and I am guilty of it), talking on the phone, or anything else, they are probably not truly hearing you. And this affects how much they ‘get’ as well as how much you ‘give’.
As in the case of these two control tower personnel, I would have to speculate that they might have been distracted and most likely were not listening to each other. (Again, it’s just speculation, but it doesn’t take much to mix up communication on the verbal and the listening end.)
Regardless of the cause, communication is the key. And listening is really the word that ought to be at the top of the list.
So, how do we listen effectively?
Let’s  go with simplicity and a visual.
My son has been overly talkative at school lately and we are working with him to get him to practice listening. My fiancee tells him, we have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.  (I think that we’ve all heard that from our teachers or parents at least once in our lives.) My fiancee also reminds my son that he needs to keep his mouth closed and ears open. This is not being mean, although it may sound like it. It’s being honest. (If you know what a happy six year old boy sounds like, especially when he is excited, than you would be this direct with him too).
As we mature we are supposed to outgrow the ‘talk first, listen later’ routine, but many of us do not. With our busy lives and many distractions we could stand to take this elementary-advice once in a while.
Here are some more tips to help with listening :
1.       Get and STAY in the moment. Be in the ‘hear’ and now; don’t be thinking about dinner, getting gas or walking the dog when you get home
2.       Do not multitask; if you are ‘doing something’ while someone is talking than you are not actively listening
3.       Ask questions, then repeat back the answer to ensure you heard them and also understood them (it sounds strange, but it works)
4.       Maintain eye contact (and this one comes from my 9 year old)
5.       DON’T ASSUME. Do you assume what people are thinking and then talk accordingly? That’s a big no-no. (If I can’t read your mind, how can you possibly read mine?)
And one of the most important:
**‘Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.’ (Be still, be quiet and find out where they are coming from before speak.)
So, here is your challenge for the next 24 hours. Practice good communication by listening.
Every time you are in a communicative relationship with someone practice at least two of the tips we mentioned here.

**This is a Proverb in the bible, and Stephen R. Covey’s Habit #5., in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
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