Principle #4 – Activate Your Learning Gene to Improve Your Communication
Do you think you are a good communicator? Are you a good listener? Are you vocal about what you want or need? Often times we may believe if our partner or supervisor would just communicate, things would be easier. There’s no doubt that communication is a two-way street, which means we all need to vocalize what we need, and we also need to listen to what is requested of us.
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I had a deep and sensitive conversation. At one point, she was emotional, which brought out my mama bear. It was hard to see her cry, and I wanted to make the hurt go away…much like kissing a boo-boo. I tried to make her feel better, and she asked me, Mom, would you just listen? I appreciated her honesty because I really wasn’t listening; I was trying to fix it. She eventually worked through her feelings and felt better. And because she is sensitive, she apologized to me for snapping. I let her know that I was grateful she trusted me enough to tell me what she needed.
We have many in-depth discussions where we both talk and listen very well. But when my daughter is emotional, my empathy gene goes into overdrive. She is an amazing young woman, and I learn from her often. I vow to be a better listener, even when there are emotions involved.
“Saying nothing… sometimes says the most.” – Emily Dickinson
Having effective communication skills is essential in any type of relationship…personal and at work. Here are a few things I try to do when communicating:
- Be mentally present during a discussion. It’s easy to be distracted by other things, but giving our full attention shows the other person respect. Make eye contact and listen!
- Don’t assume. Many of us assume we know what the other person is feeling; or assume that someone knows what we are feeling. Well, think again…no one is a mind reader. Ask questions to get a full understanding.
- Notice body language. If someone looks tense, it’s a good indicator that we have pushed their boundaries. Be kind and try a different approach or change the topic. I remember when my daughters were teenagers, I could tell by their eyelids, yes…eyelids, if they were zoning out. When the eyelids closed halfway, they didn’t want to hear anymore. Of course, if I had paid better attention to the way I was coming across, they probably wouldn’t have tuned me out. I’ve learned a lot from my daughters!
- Have an open mind. It can be difficult to hear things we don’t want to hear. Keep an open mind to another point of view and to new ideas.
- Stay on topic and don’t interrupt. This is something I’m guilty of. When I’m excited, I have to reel it in until the other person is finished talking. I try to ask the other person how they are doing first. Still, sometimes I start right in on what is happening in my world, especially when I’m talking with my sister, Cindy. She’s gracious with my babbling…I’m working on it, Cin…really! (Best sister ever!)
- Don’t be afraid to ask what you need. There are so many of us that don’t do this. Maybe we’re afraid to ask or lack confidence. But, my goodness, your needs are important! You will be so much happier when your needs are met!
“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” – Sue Thoele
I believe we need to understand that many people struggle with communication. And it’s important to be patient and attentive while communicating. So, forgive others and give them grace. It takes two to have a conversation; be the one to guide the conversation in the right direction. Keep your heart open because we are all continuously learning.
Freedom is possible!