What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as you would know, a LOT can go wrong.
Communication is a skill.
Some of us were lucky enough to grow up in a family that already had this skill.
Some of us may have learnt to talk. But not necessarily to skillfully communicate.
When we communicate there are lots of different things going on. As the speaker we send a message. As the listener we are the receiver of the message. In between there is an awful lot of room for trouble.
Let’s start with the listener because listening is probably the most important communication skill.
What you hear is dependent on so many things – your mood at the time, how much attention you’re paying, your beliefs and attitudes, your history with other people, how defensive you are, and on and on it goes.
As the listener you may have a speaker send you a message that goes through all your filters and comes to you meaning something completely different than they intended.
It takes effort and skill to slow down and really listen without getting caught in your own filters.
If you really hear what the other person is saying there is so much less chance of things going wrong.
Think of all the times you could tell that someone wasn’t really listening to you. How well did that conversation go?
Listening is not just letting the other person speak. There’s a responsibility in listening. Because you and the person you’re talking to are likely to have very different perceptions of the world, it’s up to you as the listener to make sure that you’re interpreting what the speaker is saying correctly. So asking question like “Did you mean ‘this’ by what you just said?” or “Am I getting you right by hearing this?” can go a long way to making your communication the best it can be.
Think of how many arguments could have been avoided with your partner or your kids or your friends if you had made sure you understood each other right before jumping to conclusions and reacting (possibly to something that was not meant).
So your task for this week is to try to be a better listener. Speak less. Ask more questions to clarify what’s being said.