Living a better life through better communication-Communication Part III
In part II we learned the importance of staying present in the conversation and how botched things can get if we do not. We also reminded ourselves that a big part of successful communication is beginning to understand the other person first, before pressing too hard to be understood.
In part I of our Communication post we answered questions about some trouble we might be having being heard or understood.
We listed who this tends to happen with, when it tends to happens and over what topic(s).
It’s very well possible that our answers included, ‘multiple topics and people; and at multiple times’, this is fine because can often the case.
One of the last questions answered was ‘what one thing did we wish the other person(s) would change to help the situation go smoother’; many of us probably had that answer pretty quickly because there is nothing more frustrating than when it seems someone is not ‘getting’ what we are saying, or worse, they just don’t seem to care.
But I wonder if we don’t realize that maybe it isn’t the other person. Could it very well be us?
If we evaluate the list of things we wish that they would change, we ‘d probably realize that we could both benefit from changing what we do in communication.
It sounds backwards and probably not what anyone was hoping to hear. Though, for others to make changes around us sometimes we must be the first one to change. And since we cannot control anyone else, why not start with ourselves! (It’s back t the old Serenity Prayer.)
Here are some key areas that we can help ourselves be heard and understood better:
· Close your mouth and open your ears
· Be in the now (stay present in the conversation)
· Maintain eye contact
· Think before you speak (count to 3 if you must)
· Know who you are and what you want
My son has been overly talkative at school lately and we are working with him to get him to practice listening. So, my fiancé reminds him that he needs to keep mouth closed and ears open. This is not being mean, though it may sound like it. It’s being honest, and I imagine that we have all heard that from our teachers and parents at least once in our lives. Not to mention, if you know what a happy, energetic six year old boy sounds like, especially when he is excited, than you would welcome this directness too! Phew.
At six years old, he is not the only one who needs practice listening. Many adults do too. (I am one of them.)
As much as I love to listen to people talk (and I really do!), I love hearing their stories and I love asking them about their experiences, etc., on occasion I can find myself getting carried away with my own words and forget that it’s not my turn anymore.
I’ve learned that the more you take the less people listen anyway, and use fewer words to articulate; too many words can lead things off track and the original focus of the conversation is lost. People tune out. (Whether it is the fault of a short-attention-span-society or our desire to babble it does not matter; we still need to adjust to be more effective in communications.)
With such a self indulgent society and in such a fast paced, communication era, we are all about talking and telling. It’s all well and good and I like it, but relationships don’t work with just ‘me’; they need a ‘we’. And if we are all on our soapboxes at the same time and don’t let anyone else have a turn, we don’t really get the privilege of knowing someone.
Relationships grow stronger when we truly listen to each other and learn about them. So listen more than you talk.
Stay in the now:
It’s been said that the average attention span for an adult is about 15-20 minutes, and web surfers using a search engine have an attention span of about 8 seconds so, either way, there isn’t much of a window to get your point across so we need to learn to speak with intention.
That means that not only do we need to speak more precisely and in less time, but also have to listen more intently, knowing that our sands of time are running out and soon we will self-destruct into the classic distracted-listener.
Maintain eye contact:
(My 9 yr. old suggested this be listed as an important part of communication;)
Eye contact is genuine. It shows that your focus and attention is on the person in front of you. We must not text, look at our watch or get distracted by people passing by. There should be nothing more important than the human being, in the flesh who is standing in front of us, because they will care if we are not listening; the phone or watch, well they won’t know the difference and I promise that they will be there when your conversation is over.
Think before you speak:
This is as much for the listener as it is for the speaker. A ‘train of thought’ can take off to too many other places, leading us to forget what we were talking about and come to mention it, what they were talking about too.
We have to take a second to reply. We should be think about what we are going to say before we say it (and NOT while the other person is talking). It’s wise to take a breath or two while preparing to speak, or else everything in our busy brains will spill out all at once and completely cover what we really want to say.
If someone is not paying attention to you, stop talking. This one might be difficult:
But chances are they stopped listening a long time ago. I’m not sure about you, but I have an extremely difficult time carrying on conversations with people who aren’t listening. If they do not engage in the conversation, engage too much, or seem to be distracted and show no real interest; I stop talking. (Yes, I stop speaking completely and I walk away or discontinue the conversation on the phone. I figure why bother, they don’t care and they are certainly not listening. They are not going to understand anything, and I cannot get any of my questions answered. Those conversations are ugly.)
Know yourself as an individual:
You must know yourself to communicate effectively. Who you are comes out when you speak, and it affects how people receive you.
Conversation, no matter how minor and on the surface, is still a way we get to know each other.
If you aren’t sure who you are or where you stand, you could too often shift back and forth on your opinions in the conversation; confusing the heck out of those around you, not to mention yourself.
Don’t keep repeating their last word to seem involved in the discussion.
With such a self-catering society, in such a fast paced, communication era, we are all about ‘telling’. That is all well and good, but relationships don’t work with just ‘me’; they need ‘we’.
But, the most common thread in our communication struggles is ourselves, so although we wish others would change; we are the only one that can.
Today pick one thing off of this list to work on so we can work on bettering our lives through more precise, clear and meaningful communication!
‘Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.’ – Brian Tracy
If only others will follow our lead, our relationships would really benefit! Now stop texting, finish reading and go listen to someone! ;)
P.S. I wonder how many readers could actually read, stay focused and follow all three parts of this Communication post to the end. Please share this post….’pass it on’…