I recently completed a contract job and during the “post mortem” meeting the topic of communication came up. Communication styles, expectations, and availability were the topics of the conversation. It never ceases to amaze me that all around the world we “flap our lips” everyday in verbal communication but are we truly understanding each other?
Effective communication is not natural to us. It is something we need to work on everyday. Yet, because we “communicate” every day we do not feel the need to work on improving this area. Our tendency is to converse and share information in a way that is familiar to us and expect it to be the same with those whom we interact with.
In our fast paced world clear and effective communication is a must. We live or die by how well we communicate. And, depending on your environment, communication can take several forms: verbal, non-verbal, email, phone, memos and letters, instant messaging, text messaging, video conferencing, VoIP, and more. Personal preferences, cultural differences, and accessibility all factor in. Communicating takes work but, those who are wise will invest the time and energy to make this an everyday priority. Your work, your relationships, your family, and your very life may depend on it.
A main ingredient of communication is silence and listening. This is almost always ignored. We all have something to say. When others are talking to us, instead of listening we’re thinking of what we want to say next. Ever been guilty of that?
Listed below are keys to incredible communication through listening. I know it is hard but, avoid the temptation to interrupt and use the principles below:
Listening With Your Eyes
Body language communicates more than words often do. Look at your body language as well as the person you’re talking with. Also, look into the eyes of the person. Do not look at other things around you — this communicates you’re not attentive, interested, or respecting what the other person is saying.
Listening With Your Ears
Focus on what the other person is saying by giving your full attention. Don’t talk back, although some probing questions may be relevant to get clarity (it also tells the other person that you are listening).
Listening With Your Feelings
Try as best as you can to “read between the lines” of what the other person is saying. Look to understand their feelings about the topic. As Stephen Covey says, “Seek to understand before being understood.”
For more on these topics and others, see Alec Mackenzie’s classic best seller, The Time Trap, Section Two: Biggest Time Wasters – Poor Communication.