Every situation has a silver lining – discover a mindset that heals and enlightens.
August 27, 2021 · 7 min read
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. - Stephen R. Covey,
A lot of us have misconception that we are born naturally with great communication skills. However, when we fail at communicating too many times, we don’t look the same at communication. We look at it as a skill that can be developed.
I have experienced failures myself at communicating and thus I had to undergo self-learning to improve my communication. Nevertheless, this skill can always be improved and I’ll never stop learning it.
Communication is the key to enter to hearts of people. Communication is the foundation of our lives and almost any other skill, because it can come in variety of ways: art, music, words, non-verbal gestures.
“When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen.”– Ernest Hemingway
Listening is rated as the most underrated essential communication skill for success. Undoubtedly, this skill can be deceiving at first, because it sounds very simple to do, doesn’t it?
Most people listen to reply instead of understanding the message. This is the main element that causes a lot of communication problems. People when explaining their idea don’t get fully understood, which result in miscommunication and more errors.
We probably listen more than ever nowadays. The listening can occur directly or it can occur on Internet via TV, YouTube or any other platform. Listening becomes such a casual activity to do, that we underestimate it’s power and significance.
By truly listening to main and most important keywords, we can understand the message better. Don’t try to interpret the message at the very beginning. Listen carefully what is being told.
Some tips on how to be a better listener:
Psychologist Guy Winch on the Aspen Institute interview has said, that: “We tend to have a feeling that the more we know someone, the less we have to ask someone what they’re thinking”.
That idea is born naturally in everyone of our head, because we have an assumption that we know what the other person thinks, or at least we can guess. Therefore, their opinion becomes not as significant. This is called “perspective taking”.
Requirements and demands change over time. We might assume that 2 years ago that person wanted this or that, but in the present the view on that might have changed. Therefore, you might have an intention to surprise the other person by taking a guess. As a result, this risk often creates arguments
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Keeping in mind of perspective taking is especially important in close relationships and workplace. You should rather over-communicate than communicate less.
In one of the studies it was found that the cost of communication problems that are caused by 100 employees (on average) cost a business $420,000 annually.
The main takeaway is to ask more questions. Don’t hesitate to look unprofessional or inexperienced by doing this. It’s the person who makes a mistake due of communication error is an ignorant person, rather than the person that asks questions to make sure that he’s on the right track and avoids mistakes as much as possible
According to psychologist David Matsumoto that gave an interview in AprendemosJuntos show, non-verbal communication can be environmental, personal appearance, behavioral traces and non-verbal behavioral.
To understand better environmental communication, picture this: a presenter is with a crowd in a room with grey tiles, LED lights all over the place, a projector that can show information, windows with a view to the mountains. Every little bit contributes to environmental non-verbal communication and already prepares us for a certain mood to listen to this presenter.
Personal appearance cues are clothes we wear, glasses we wear, our hairstyle and etc. This also provides a general idea what to expect for the listener. For an instance, a suit usually represents an important meeting about business, technical management, etc.
Behavioral traces are something that is left in a place that belongs to a person even though he’s not there. In that way, other people can tell something about that person: if a desk is not clean, messy, paper towers are left everywhere, that can leave a bad impression on that person.
Behavioral communication is actions and behaviors that a person does, which can be a smile, shrugging, physical touching and others.
This puts an emphasis on how many variables we can be getting from only non-verbal communication. This lets us to make a very significant impression about a person and his character.
Sometimes we assume that a certain concept is a common sense, therefore it’s not even necessary to give a background. Because of that, the receivers of the message are left confused due of not understanding some aspects of a concept.
This is a very unfruitful habit to do, especially at workplace. When a newcomer comes, he usually doesn’t know all the technical concepts and jargons that are used in the environment. Everything has to be explained from the roots in order to avoid miscommunication.
Not only that, but the newcomer would be highly demotivated and overwhelmed by so many things to learn. I’ve been in this place myself and probably a lot of you were too.
This concept also applies to relationships. It is often misinterpreted that the other person whom you live with for a few years can read your desires and mind. Usually, it’s not possible and as a result, a lot of arguments are taking place.
Therefore, the key takeaway is to always express your opinion clearly and straight, especially if it’s something new to explain.
In these modern days we are disconnected from the real communication origin, which is face-to-face.
We have social media, e-mails, messages, phone calls, communication platforms. As much as we believe that these communication tools enhance our expression of thoughts, it’s actually the opposite.
This was shown by the most recent “humanity experiment” that we all have experienced, which is Covid-19 pandemic. Majority of us were isolated from other people, we only had modern communication tools. As we actually met with people again, most of us were different than before. We lost the fluent communication skills. We’ve lost our natural flow.
Assumptions are the termites of relationships. - Henry Winkler
As for businesses, things are a little different. It’s very convenient for the whole office to use socializing platforms and not to waste time by going to the other person. Time is money and money is time, isn’t it?
Be cautious of face-to-face communication power, because not only does it make us better communicators and better at expressing our thoughts, but it also unites people together. To have a closer relationship, you must embrace a face-to-face interaction and keep this essential communication tip in mind.
Alexander Todorov, a psychologist professor at Princeton University has done a study, which discovered that 70% of first impressions last. This has a significant impact on the further communication and how people perceive you.
Because of that, you must be alert of the decisions that you are making and other non-verbal communication actions that you take. First impressions are incredibly powerful, because you can take it to your advantage.
Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating. - Charlie Kaufman
That’s what politicians usually do. They try to impress people by making promises, especially before elections. However, this doesn’t result in trust. People only blindly believe in them.
If you’ve made a good first impression, the next time you show up, people like you unconsciously. With this leverage, you can start building trust with people, which brings me to the next point.
People love trust. Every relationship, sale is built around trust. This is the core of essential communication.
You have to ask questions and propose your solutions to these problems. Show your curiosity and initiative to do something.
People like when they are getting interest from the other person, which asks about them or something that they are working on. That is the essential tip for every salesman and likeability in general.
Individuals that brag about themselves all the time become boring. They tend to look a little egoistic if they don’t know how to put themselves in a neutral position.
Don’t get carried away from other sources of distraction when you show your interest. Don’t get distracted by phone or anything else. Show your full interest and dedication. In this way you will start bonding and build trust with people.
Just like previously, this brings me to another point.
When you show interest to other people, don’t just ask: “How many dogs do you have?” Instead, say in this way: “Would you mind showing me pictures of your dogs? What was the most memorable or funny situation you’ve had with them?”
These questions show engagement and interest. Certainly, some people tend to be very closed and not wanting to share anything from their life, but generally, people like to talk about things like pets or hobbies. Talking about politics, money, religion, children, and similar topics might seem a little weird and inappropriate in some cases.
An example why you shouldn’t talk about contradicting topics is shown in a study from Pew Research Center. 10,000 Americans were surveyed about political ideological opinions, and it showed that we are more divided and more polarized than ever in history.
“Make sure to communicate your idea quickly and keep it straight to the point.” – Paul Bailey
The other benefit is that these questions provoke people to open-up and build trust. Such questions allow to dig deeper into the topic and reveal some more details about it. Keep in mind that it’s not possible in all cases and scenarios, so don’t get upset if you can’t do it at certain moment.
A lot of people tend to try to get out of the situation like a hamster runs on a wheel. Basically, it leads nowhere and you end at the same point where you started. It doesn’t build any respect and in some cases it can show that you can’t be trusted.
You try to prove something that you don’t know and make up on the spot. This is a very primitive example, but politicians do this very often. They get asked a lot of questions, but the answers sound dull. It’s the same as describing outside of a house and leaving the essentials – the inside of the house.
Therefore, if you want to build trust, then admit that you don’t know a certain thing. Make a joke and make your way out of the question. You’ll show up with the correct and accurate answer the next time.
When we make a short point and think that it’s said too simply, we tend to run in circles and paraphrase the answer (or our statement) in other words. This happens a lot in our daily lives. Do it only if you know that people enjoy listening to you.
Repeating yourself becomes boring to people and they lose focus. Not only that, but the next time they unconsciously get ready to listen the rant again. In other words, they start losing respect and think that they’ll get little to no value out of your words.
This is seen a lot on YouTube platform, when people tend to do whatever it takes to push their video to 10 minutes of length. The reason for that is to increase their revenue from the video. Instead, try to give a lot of value to the listener or to the reader.
If you don’t repeat yourself, people will find you interesting, wise and will always have a pleasure to talk to you. This will prove that you have essential communication skills.
People tend to care more about you than little details.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember what year a certain event happened, or what’s the name of a plant or whatever else.
The point is to make a thorough and flowing description of your story. When you struggle to remember little details, people lose focus, they lose interest in you, they think that you are forgetful of details and they keep judging you. Instead, just make a few things up if you really want to incorporate them into your story.
“To have good communication skills means you are able to make your point without a lot of fillers and stumbling.” Gregory Davidson
Just be mindful not to mix facts up with your imagination. Keep the main points in place without distorting them.
Undoubtedly, this skill requires practice, but there’s no rush. Life is all about never ending improvements
This is self-explanatory, but if an individual is not self-aware, he will never know. He might not even admit even when other person tells him to stop interrupting.
This is a rude thing to do and shows that the opinion of other person is not respected. In some cases, big ego can be a cause of interruption too.
Even if the story that the other person is saying is very slow-paced and sounds not engaging, but you have to keep focus and listen thoroughly. We must have tolerance for other people and show respect.
If someone interrupts you, kindly let them know that you want to finish your statement. Don’t let anyone push you around. People that interrupt are ignorant to essential communication skills.
However, if it happens that someone interrupts you, it’s a very good practice to analyze why did another person do it. Were you too slow to get to the point? Was your voice too monotonous? Was the story itself boring?
This analyzation can help you to improve your communication skills. In some cases, it’s just the person that’s too impatient or has other personal problems. Don’t take that too much personally if that happens.
All of these points are closely linked to one goal – be interested in other people.
Make them entertained, listen, be thorough and transparent and be honest. Hypocrites nowadays are easily seen through in our society. What is most valuable is honesty.
Honesty is the best policy to other people’s heart.