When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me, and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen,
not talk or do – just hear me.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
And I can do for myself; I’m not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.
But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then
I quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what’s behind the
feelings. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
So, please listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn, and
I’ll listen to you.
The quality and health of our relationships –notice the word ‘relate’ in there? – depend considerably on how well we are able to communicate with each other. Being in the world of people, depends so much on how we connect with these people, most of the time through words. We know that we live in a communication age, but are we really effective at communicating?
So what IS effective communication?
On the non-written level, it’s pretty basic; we send and receive a message from one person to another. The sender has the responsibility of initiating and delivering a message. To be effective as a ‘sender’ there are many things you need to consider. There are levels that you need to be aware of and attend to, as I will highlight here.
The First Level: This represents the tone of your voice, clarity, language (cultural and generational), brevity, being aware of jargon and acronyms that are not universal, and how well you ar-tic-u-late.
The Second Level: This is about being mindful of what your face and body are doing, the so-called non-verbal language. What expression, posture, and positioning of the body are you demonstrating? Is your body in alignment with what you are saying? Are you averting your eyes, or engaged in another task while you are talking to someone?
The Third Level: This represents what is going on inside your mind. What beliefs, judgements, knowledge, philosophies, and assumptions might be interfering with your way to convey a clear, honest and kind message.
Just an FYI peeve of mine: I just hate it when someone is doing something else when they are talking with me, either in person, or on the phone. This could be texting, moving about the room, doing chores (I get this when I’m on the phone with someone and I can hear them clanking about), or whatever! I understand there are times when someone is engaged in something, like driving or eating, but I mean when they are trying to actually DO something else while they are talking to me, then I feel a little slighted.
There are many levels that we need to consider if we’re going to send a message in an effective way. And by effective, I mean that the message is getting to the receiver with the expected intention.
But the receiver has responsibilities as well. You cannot just be passively taking in the message when someone is talking. On the first level, you need to be actively listening, clarifying and asking questions if necessary. On the second level, you need to be aware of your body language and how open you are to receiving this message.
Are you holding yourself in a defensive way, or looking particularly hostile, bored, disinterested, or angry? Are you absorbing what is being said, without external distractions – noise and/or movement by others – or internal distractions, such as your own potentially limiting thoughts, beliefs and opinions.
We have a lot going on around and inside us, so to be able to avoid any of these potential ‘barriers’ to communication would be quite difficult. But we can be aware of them and make efforts to manage and correct them.
I think two things that can contribute to a very effective and wonderful communication exchange with another, are listening and asking questions.
Really listening to someone, without interrupting, changing the subject or finishing their sentences (or correcting them, another peeve of mine :-o), is an incredibly powerful and respectful thing to do. It’s a gift. It shows that you are 100% interested and available to receive what that other person has to say. It shows you care!
And asking questions is also a gift. To some, this may be uncomfortable, but I don’t mean that you have to interrogate or grill someone. It’s more about curiousity and about wanting to understand more of what they are telling or sharing with you.
You notice that I used the word ‘understand’ rather than ‘know’ or ‘learn’. I feel that we can get caught up with information, with ‘informing’ others about something, and about receiving ‘information’. In this, we can lose sight of the real message, and the feelings associated with this message.
When you ask sincere and thoughtful questions, you show you are engaged. You show you care about what the other person is talking about; you make them feel important, because you are showing them how truly interested you are in what they have to say.
So, be mindful of your relate-sionships, The power of this amazing skill we’ve been given, should not be used lightly or abusively. It should be used responsibly, lovingly and honestly.