How to be a Better Communicator
The number one complaint of communication breakdowns is NOT “he wasn’t clear”, or “she was kind of fuzzy, or “they didn’t give enough information.”
It is: “He/She doesn’t listen.”
Most of us suck when it comes to listening. This is no surprise. We spend years in school learning to read, write, and speak. There are seminars and workshops on how to construct and deliver effective talks. We have conferences devoted to giving TED Talks. But when was the last time you heard of a class on listening? (These are more common in counseling degrees, though).
We have been taught that communication is primarily about getting our point of view across to someone else. And yet, when it comes to relationships – whether with loved ones or in a work environment – listening is the most important of all relational skills.
To be a great listener you must develop EMPATHY. You probably recognize the word and maybe even know the definition of what it means: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. But – and here is the BIG BUT – do you practice it?
In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says, “We do not see the world as it is; we see the world as we are – or as we have been conditioned to be.” We assume that we see and experience the world from an objective unbiased perspective. Therefore, all we need to do is to communicate “the truth” (the facts as we see them) and any reasonable person will agree with us. Yeah – how is that working for you? (It doesn’t).
In order to be a great communicator, we must first seek to understand before attempting to be understood. This is counter-intuitive. That’s because our natural “intuition” is to be self-centered. We naturally believe that the world is about us. It’s the bent we are born with. That means we have to work at understanding someone else’s world.
As you work to listen and truly understand someone else’s heart it legitimize their reality. And when that happens, you create a pathway for them to consider your perspective. However, seeking to understand another’s world isn’t necessarily about agreeing with them. Don’t be confused about that. Empathy is the willingness to abandon your own perspective and step into their shoes. This takes an “other-centeredness” and humility.