Today more than ever there is a real lack of good communication. We see it everywhere -- in the conflict of war and aggression, we see it in big business where managers and workers alike are not heard, and we see it in our own relationships. Many of you can relate because you have felt the sting of being alienated by people unwilling to listen.
There are not many things that are quite as painful as being shut out, of not being heard, of not being understood -- whether this action is done on purpose or through neglect or oversight. It is painfully true that people want more than anything else to be heard and to be understood.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells us that most of us are preoccupied with being "understood" rather than seeking to "understand". I believe that if we could change this one aspect of our behavior, we would see vast improvements in our world and in our relationships.
Communication after all is not about how well we articulate our thoughts, but it is about how well we listen. Contrary to popular belief it is not the speaker who controls the communication, it is the listener. Without a listener there is no communication! How well we listen is a reflection of the level of our communication skills.
Listening involves patience, openness and a desire to understand. It is about asking the question, behind the question. It is about trying to see the situation from the other's perspective. It is not about problem solving or advice giving. It is not about reinterpreting the story to a time when you had a similar experience, nor is it about just being present. Although these are all appropriate at certain times, they are not appropriate unless you have first taken the time to understand.
To relate effectively with a partner, children, friends or work associates, we must learn to listen. This not only requires emotional strength, it also involves you choosing to become a more effective listener.
When we see relationships breakdown, in a marriage for example, we see partners who are unwilling to really hear, to acknowledge what is true for the other, to put themselves in the other's shoes! The longer this goes on the more damage that occurs. Successful marriages like successful leaders or successful managers have one thing in common - they are in relationships where others feel heard, where others feel that their needs are taken into consideration.
The true art of communication is allowing the other's truth to exist, without trying to change it. Everyone comes to their own truth through their life experiences and everyone feels justified in feeling as they do. No one ever changes another's opinion through debate. Opinions are modified when there is a willingness to hear the truth of another. Understanding this truth creates respect. Positive dialogue is only created when we have respect for each other.
A coach can help you develop your competence in communication, listening skills, presenting your ideas, and understanding others. What you say and how you respond can be greatly enhanced by working with a coach.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Contact Barb to improve your work performance through better communication and leadership skills.
Barb McEwen, C.E.C.
Personal Executive Coach
20/20 Executive Coaching Inc.
Barb uses Enneagram Personality Theory in coaching her clients.
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