Communication, Communication, Communication!
Just in case the headline didn’t get the idea across, communication is vital, vital, vital. If you want good interactions with others, you must communicate well, and thoroughly. You can’t relate to people properly if you don’t communicate properly. If you want to apply the Golden Rule in your life, then you must maximize your communication abilities. Lack of communication is also a big destroyer of relationships and personal growth.
Lacking in vocabulary and linguistic skills, doesn’t prevent good communication. The major culprits in poor communication are selfishness, self-consciousness and negative programming.
From early childhood we’re “conditioned” or “programmed” in many ways. Because we’re all different, and we have different experiences, we get bad communication training to various extents. But most all of us are taught to keep our feelings to ourselves, to “not make waves”, to not trust one another with our feelings, to “tune out”, etc.. By the time we’re adults, we have all developed an “automatic mode” of expressing ourselves and listening. And it’s usually quite lacking to one degree or another. Our communication skills are set, for better or worse. Usually worse. But we can change it, and it’s up to us to improve our ability to communicate.
The Two Sides of Communication
Essentially, communicating well involves both receiving incoming information well, and presenting your ideas well. It is a “two way street” or “give and take” sort of thing. On the “give” side of communication is expressing. Expressing can take the form of speaking, writing, images, music, body language, etc.. On the “take” side of communication, is receiving. Receiving can take the form of listening, reading, seeing, and observing (including body language and other non-verbal messages). Both require a variety of abilities and traits to do well, including being caring, open, sensitive, assertive, accurate, and thorough.
We can put an end to being lost in our own separateness, not listening to others, not being comfortable saying something we’d like to say, saying something poorly/incorrectly, or misinterpreting what we are being told. It’s just a matter of re-focusing our attention on others.
Aspects of the Expression Side of Communicating
IMMEDIATE POSITIVE EXPRESSION
We are not usually trained to positively and constructively assert ourselves or express needs and ideas to each other – quite the opposite. Often, we only express ourselves after a build up of negativity or anger. So start with working on communicating your feelings positively, and as soon as an issue arises.
Make sure what you are trying to convey to someone is extremely clear to them. You may know what you mean by something, but that doesn’t mean they do. So make it clear in terms they will understand. Pay attention, see if they are “getting it” and adjust your communication as necessary. Not doing that is a common source of problems – sometimes serious problems.
When you are thinking or feeling something that you need to share with someone, it’s great to develop the habit of being very mindful and aware of the words you are going to use, and the feeling that you are attaching to those words. Are you really saying what you are thinking and feeling? Are you communicating the entire concept? Are you assuming nothing? Are you being really accurate? When watching others attempt to communicate with each other, I have been amazed at how often they say only a part of what they are thinking and feeling, and omit so much of it that the other person misunderstands.
LOVE IS A COMMUNICATION BRIDGE
The more love and caring you have, the better you’ll be able to communicate, regardless of your skill level. So if you want to communicate well, always frequently check yourself to be sure that you’re feeling as much caring and positivity as possible. I’ve seen tremendous communication gaps bridged with a good supply of humility and affection for the other person. In fact, taking it to an extreme, I learned a lot about crossing communication gaps while living in foreign countries where I didn’t speak the language. If you care about others, it makes all the difference in the world. It can not only bridge language barriers, but also cultural barriers, prejudices, religious and class barriers, etc.. Love makes a huge difference in reaching people, getting them to open up and communicate with you, and getting your meaning, intent and message across.
Are the words you are using the best choice for the person that you are speaking to? If you watch for it, you’ll notice that each person has their own style of speaking. Mannerisms, intensity, brashness, and more, all vary between people and local cultures. Even vocabularies and slang vary.
For instance, having a waiter say “sit down” in an abrupt manner and tone, might be considered rude compared to someone nicely saying “please have a seat”. And it might be rude or insulting depending on the situation. But if you were dealing with person who’s cultural norm is to speak that way, it’s not rude.
In fact, if you were “nicer” than their cultural norm, it could lead them to distrust you, or in some situations, to consider you weak and someone to be taken advantage of. So one good skill to develop is being able to speak with the style and feeling or “type of language” of the person you want to communicate with. The more similarly you can structure your thoughts and words to their style, the better the odds are that they will get the meaning of your message correctly, and you’ll get theirs.
Be aware of whether or not the other person actually understood what you meant to say. There are many verbal AND non-verbal “signals” that “tell” you what someone means to say, and that give clues as to whether or not the other person gets what you are saying. Just get “out of your self” and pay attention – you’ll see the signs. If your attention is more on yourself, you’ll miss them.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT POINTS ON EXPRESSION
1. Don’t let things build up before you say something.
2. Be crystal clear and accurate about what you are saying.
3. Communicate with Love.
4. Shape your style of language to your audience.
5. Focus on the other person and whether or not they understood you.
Aspects of the Receptive Side of Communicating
HEARING BUT NOT LISTENING
On the other side of the coin, most of us were never trained to really listen. In fact, school training often creates a syndrome in which we “glaze over” and block out things that are being said (again, to various degrees). This is the result of both boring presentations, and attempts at being forced to learn.
The problem is further worsened by selfishness/self-centeredness. We don’t pay much attention to others when our attention is focused on our selves. In fact, because of our self-oriented focus, it has never even occurred to most of us that we lack the ability to listen, comprehend, and absorb what someone else has to say. It’s not considered as important as telling other people what you want them to hear. You’ve probably heard of sales courses, speaking courses, assertiveness courses, etc., but how often to you hear of classes on being a better listener? The problem reminds me of the story about a man who’s girlfriend tells him she is leaving him because he doesn’t listen to her. When another friend asked about why she left, the man says, “I’m not sure, something about not listening, but I wasn’t really paying attention…”. The fact is, many of us don’t really care what someone else has to say. Which is where the Golden Rule comes in – if we care, that can all change.
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS BEING SAID, INSTEAD OF WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY.
If you want to really listen, watch out for paying too much attention to your own reactions and desires. Many people don’t “hear” because they are too busy thinking about what they want to say next.
Like the old saying goes, “Stop. Look. Listen.”
BECOME A FAIR WITNESS OBSERVER
You can learn much by becoming an “observer” – always paying attention to how others communicate. Listen for the feeling and both the surface meaning and the deeper meanings of what people are saying. You can learn a lot about communicating by doing this.
STILL THE MIND
Meditating can help make you a better listener. As you meditate, your ability to still your mind is enhanced, which helps you listen because the chatter of your own mind is reduced. Who can really hear what’s going on “out there” when there’s such a deafening din going on in your own mind? It reminds me of the old saying that we are created with two eyes, two ears and just one mouth. That’s a four to one ratio.
Maybe someone was trying to tell us something!
REALLY CARE ABOUT WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY
Caring about what someone has to say makes you a better listener, and makes others more receptive to you. It also makes you more interesting to them. They will feel your genuine interest in what they think and feel (which sadly, is rare) and they in turn will be more likely to be open hearted with you too, and listen to what you have to say.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF LISTENING.
1. Pay attention to what is being said, not what you want to say.
2. Be sensitive to the feelings behind the words you are hearing.
3. Still your mind as you listen.
4. Really care about what they are feeling and thinking.
from: The Golden Rule HandBook