UNDERSTANDING COMES FIRST

I’ve always been careful in which I use so that my words don’t lose an ounce of their meaning. Some people say things like “It’s all semantics!” in a way that makes it seem like what you’re talking about or discussing doesn’t really make much difference. However, this is not the case with regards to the semantic difference between sympathy and empathy. To put it in layman’s terms, sympathy is “to feel FOR” and empathy is “to feel WITH”. If a loved one passes away, for someone to say that they “empathize” with you, then that means they have experienced the same feelings as you have, or rather, they have lost a loved one before too. They must truly understand what you’re going through, not just feel for you. Now, I’m not saying that sympathy is inadequate. I’m simply saying that they contain a specific difference and that we should strive towards empathy with all. While most everyone is able to sympathize with (feel for) others, not everyone is able to empathize (feel with) others depending on their past experiences. But how, then, is it possible make it our goal to empathize with someone if we know we’ve not undergone the same experiences as they have? The answer is in one word, “understanding”.

In the mega article, “Communication Essentials”, we were told about the “5 Pillars of Communication,” one of which was “empathy”. Another good principle of relationships is similar, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Too often we want to get our point of view across to the other person and make sure they understand us before we actually understand them. We do this with any topic in which we hold strong beliefs or opinions about. Often times, we seek to administer the cure to someone’s problem (such as encouraging or sage words) before understanding the disease, the root of it all. That is not to say that we are all doctors or have some kind of miraculous cure to offer every problem but we do have understanding to give, if we take the time to arrive there.

I once had a roommate who I went to class with every day. He was quiet, reserved, artistic, and non-confrontational.  I tended to be more talkative, analytical, and argumentative. Over time, his behavior befuddled me more and more.   Although in many ways he was like a younger brother, I often felt like a Martian observing the ways of someone from another galaxy. We were worlds apart. Then, one day, over lunch, I decided to sit down with him and just started asking him questions. They were deep questions about life and meaning, his dreams and his hopes.  After that day, we had a bond that we didn’t have before, not because I had new information about him but because I feel that in all of my question-asking he could see that I cared about him as a person. I understood him…mostly because I took the time to. This didn’t come at all naturally to me, I had to make an intentional choice, but I will always remember it as the moment where I had had enough of being so lost in my interactions with him and decided to do something about it.

If you know you can only “sympathize” with someone and feel you can’t feel with them, just sit down and ask questions, seek to understand where they are coming from and how they’ve arrived where they are. Not only will you find your relationships deepened and enriched, you’ll find you learn a few new things about your friends and family along the way.

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LISTENING : AN IMPORTANT COMMUNICATION ESSENTIAL

Effective interpersonal communication requires active interchange of verbal messages and non-verbal cues between the people involved. Imagine a classroom situation where the teacher is teaching but the students have put their heads down and are in no mood to listen to what is being taught. This is an example of ineffective communication even though the teacher is playing her part well. In this case, effective communication happens when the students sit up straight and listen to what the teacher is teaching, some keep nodding their heads as a gesture of understanding and some raise their hands to get their doubts clarified or to answer the questions asked by the teacher. Hence, decent verbal expression skills by one party and focused listening by the other, renders communication effective.

The golden rule is: Don’t just hear, LISTEN. Surface hearing results in unclear understanding and the consequence is – miscommunication, which may lead to a lot of chaos and confusion.

 There was this lady at the Confectioner’s who had to order her supplies for the next day from a new shop as her regular supplier was out of town. She called up the new shop late at night and ordered for ‘12 dozen eggs’. The consignment was to be delivered at her doorstep within an hour before the shop closed for the day. The doorbell rang in 45 minutes and there was this guy from the shop handing over ‘12 eggs’ to her!!! Imagine the lady’s bewilderment! On enquiry it turned out that the person who had picked up the phone had heard it wrongly, hence the miscommunication.

Well, this incident may bring a smile to our lips. But, there are other instances where careless listening results in disasters. Just think if a pilot hears a ‘NO’ when he asks the ground crew for landing permission, as ‘YES’ and steers the aircraft to descend, what would happen?

Listening is an art. Patient listening is a virtue.

Attentive listening is one of the important ‘communication essentials’!

COMMUNICATION: MISS OR HIT

(Picture Source: www.ondeck.com)

Communication refers to the transfer of information from one person to another. A consistent mode of communication results in progressive interaction between one and more than one groups or individuals. Interactions lead to building up of a connection which grows strong with facilitation. This gives rise to relationships that can stand the test of time. But we have heard of broken trusts, broken contacts and broken hearts, most of which have their source ion miscommunication.

Miscommunication is defined to be a “failure to communicate” adequately. Yes, communication too demands to be adequate.

We gather information related to various fields as we need to meet our diverse needs. The language in which we communicate is different regarding different topics. The terminologies, sentence construction, intonations in speech are differentiated. Dialect varies from person to person. The dialect of every individual refers to as idiolect. Our idiolects express our uniqueness and sociolects express the cultures we come from. But we need to be aware of the certain terms and phrases while maintaining formal and informal discourse. Failure to do so results in miscommunication.

Miscommunication in Formal Discourse occurs because of innumerable reasons. The major ones are stated briefly. In Misplaced vocabulary one confuses one word with the other and uses wrong words while communicating. If a speaker uses words not understood by the audience, he fails to communicate adequately. Disorganized thinking too, results in miscommunication. A person should know what his listeners would comprehend; therefore, organized speech should come into his view. In formal discourse spontaneous speaking should be avoided, rather one should think before delivering. Use of colloquialism, assumptions, and stereotypes should be avoided in formal discourse.

Miscommunication in Informal discourse refers to the ones in marriage, relationships and friendships. There are times when your friend or partner behaves in a different way than they used to previously. It’s time to look for the deeper meaning behind their behaviour instead of taking them on a face value. You can take cues from the mega article of this week while communicating to people close to you. Accusing your spouse for their flaws also is a form of miscommunication. We all have grey areas; therefore pulling down someone should not be our cup of tea. Ego-centrism acts as a catalyst in generating miscommunication. If you are too full of yourself you will fail to notice the beautiful efforts others do to bring a smile to your face. Moreover, a little love never hurt anyone as it conquers all. Therefore, lace your words with love each time you want to convey your thoughts.

HEART TO HEART INTERACTION

Interaction happens whenever two or more people gather together.

I work in customer service. Every day I interact not only with Co workers but the general public as well. Some days are really good and others, not so much.

One incident that clearly stands out in my mind is the day my Co workers and I worked with mentally handicapped young adults. I work in a grocery store and these young people came to help bag.

I had a customer, upon seeing the young lady helping and her disability, became a bit upset. She was not comfortable with her bagging her things. I looked her in the eye and politely told her that she was welcome to go to another line.

The young lady  stuck with me that whole day because I took the time to talk to her and sorted out the groceries so they would be bagged properly.  In between customers, I spoke with her and learned that her favorite color was sky blue, she had two dogs and a baby bunny. Oh, and that her favorite food was tacos. The mentors for the group were thrilled and a bit surprised that I took the time to interact with this girl. I looked at them stunned. “Well of course I interacted with her. She came to help me!”

That was one of the best days I had ever had. When I got home my husband looked at me and smiled. “Someone had a great day.” I just grinned, kissed him hello and went to make dinner….tacos.

Author’s Bio: N.Gonzalez lives in the USA, married for 27 years with two grown children. Have been working for retail grocery for last 17 years. Writing is something enjoyed in free time.

COMMUNICATION ESSENTIALS

Human beings are blessed with an ability to communicate in languages that other animals lack, yet we land up in a million instances of misunderstanding and miscommunication in our daily lives. Why does that happen even if two people talk in the same language? Very simply because the interpretation of the words could be different for different people!

Interpretation of language is different based on different cultures. I get reminded of one instance in my life when I was in the US working for a US MNC. The American guy who was my lead would always say, “We can solve this problem in this particular way. Could we try this by the end of this week?” What he meant to ask me was if I could try to solve this problem by end of this week. He was asking me for a commitment. But he never said as “Can you do this?” He would always say, “Could we do this?” This confused me so much initially. I was perplexed as to what he was really asking me to do. Did he expect me to do this work on my own or does he want to do together with me? Only with time I understood what was meant by “We” in his statements.

Interpretation of language also differs when different people talk in different context. For example, one of my cousins would always start a conversation from the middle. Out of the blue she would just say, “You know what happened with that person…” and we are totally lost as to which person and what point of time is she talking about. We used to make a lot of fun of her for this. But then this also used to be serious problem in communicating with her.

I did a short training on leadership at my work and I learnt something very essential to powerful communication. Although, training mostly was given in context professional communication yet these essentials can be applied to all the types of communications.

5 Stages of communication

Following are the stages of a good communication. So, when you talk to somebody keep in mind to follow these stages especially if it is a difficult conversation.

Open

This stage is how you open a conversation. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” “There has been something I wanted to talk to you about” “We need to talk about a few things” “There are some issues that need our attention”. These are the examples of how to open your conversation. The way you open a talk could scare another person or make him/her nervous. So it is very important to keep a good open attitude in your tone.

Clarify

Once you open the conversation, you need to clarify what you need to talk about. Describe what the problem is and why it needs attention. Or explain what your concerns are. Again be extremely open in your attitude so that the other person doesn’t feel cornered or imposed upon.

Develop

This is the stage when the other person starts to share what s/he feels about the situation. It is important to ask open ended questions rather than closed ended questions at this stage. A good example could be “What do you think about this idea?” rather than asking “Do you like this idea?” This is the stage where conversation goes on and on. Also most of the arguments or clarifications happen in this stage. So, it is very important to keep yourself open and inviting in this stage.

Agree

Based on the discussion that happened in previous stage, you come to a certain conclusion. What is the agreement? Do both of you agree with what has been decided? If not, then Develop stage was not done very well. Reach an agreement or a conclusion which makes both of you comfortable.

Close

Finally, close the conversation by thanking the other person and appreciating him/her.

Even if you are talking to your spouse or child, it makes a world of difference if you just keep these 5 stages in mind. Almost every conversation goes through Develop stage, but if Open and Clarify are not done properly, a lot of misunderstandings can crop up in Develop stage and Agree stage might never happen.

5 Pillars of communication

There are also 5 pillars of communication that each one of us should keep in mind to have a healthy communication.

Esteem

Always try to uplift the other person’s esteem. Even if s/he has done something terrible, it is important that the person’s esteem should not go down.

Empathy

This is one pillar that most of us never use. It is very important to step into other person’s shoe and feel what s/he might be going through. Every time you communicate, remember to empathize to gain the confidence of the other person. This would take your conversation to a different level.

Involvement

When talking about issues and problems, ask the person how s/he wants to contribute. Tell him/her that you need help. If esteem and empathy is taken care of, the involvement of the other person should just happen.

Share

Nobody likes to be preached, it really helps if you share your concerns, fears, good/bad experiences along the conversation. Sharing with a clean heart makes the other person feel more comfortable and at ease.

Support

You obviously need to support the other person in every way that you can. Most of us never ask this question to our spouse – “What can I do to support you?” and yet this is the most powerful and giving question of any conversation. It is easy to ask for support but it is important that from time to time we offer our support as well.

Different conversations focus on different pillars. There could be talks which demand a lot of esteem, empathy and support. There could be other talks which could be revolving only around involvement and share. So, it really depends on what is the context of the conversation.

Keep these communication stages and communication pillars in mind always. Together they make the foundation of communication essentials and can take your relationship to an all-new level.

Continue reading “COMMUNICATION ESSENTIALS”

FORGIVENESS: A DEBT PAID

(Picture Source: CLICK)

Forgiveness is something that until you don’t have it, you don’t miss it. It’s the very fabric of any successful relationship. Without it, every relationship will crumble or simply remain broken or strained as a result of inevitable broken trust. I say inevitable because it is impossible that no offenses should come. In other words, we are human and therefore make mistakes and hurt others with our selfish actions (i.e. offend others). One of the primary challenges of extending forgiveness to another is that it is by its very nature gracious, that is, it is undeserved favor bestowed on the person in the wrong, the “offender”. If you are asking for forgiveness and believe you deserve it, then you’re not *actually* asking for forgiveness (grace), you’re asking for justice (what you [think you] deserve); which probably also means you don’t really view or understand what you did as wrong. By very nature, when you forgive someone, you are releasing them from the debt they owe you, from receiving what they deserve, such as your rejection and anger. But without fail, when an offense occurs, *someone* must pay the emotional, financial, or spiritual debt owed. This, ultimately, is THE most difficult part of forgiving a loved one.

It is tempting to sometimes understand “justice” (in the sense that you want the other person to pay for their wrong) as the opposite of being merciful, but this is an incomplete understanding of the difference between justice and mercy. Justice and mercy meet within forgiveness. This is because in forgiving someone, you are paying for the debt that they owe you, balancing the proverbial scales of injustice. This is what makes forgiveness difficult. It’s not a matter of simply saying, “I forgive you”, “It’s OK”, or “No problem”. In order to forgive someone, *you* must incur the debt that *they* owe you. Some describe it as “releasing another”. But this difficult act of releasing another becomes easier for those who have genuinely experienced forgiveness. That’s because forgiven people have a different perspective. Forgiven people, forgive people. Forgiveness is a gift that, when received, can be freely given to (or withheld from) others. Most of the time, when someone is withholding forgiveness, it is simply because they have not experienced it themselves (or they have but there is a lack of understanding or genuine reception). There is a kind of proverb that reads, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that releases from debt, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Simply put, forgiven people, forgive people.

Are you merciful and forgiving? Have you experienced forgiveness or do you consider your life a meritorious endeavor? I don’t take forgiveness lightly because I know how incredibly painful and difficult it is, but as one who has experienced it in a deep and profound way, it has been one of my greatest joys (and challenges) to extend the same free gift I’ve received to the people around me.

LET IT GO

The earlier article about forgiveness struck a chord too deep.. It’s was the naked truth. Forgiving but not forgetting. Forgiving is so tough when all you want to do is hold onto the anger and hurt. But it’s not the most difficult aspect as said before. And I think one of the reasons we can’t forget is because when we forgive , we forgive the person who hurt us but we are not able to forgive ourselves for being naive enough to trust that person. It is a way of us holding onto that moment in our head and playing it over and over again ,thinking of an alternate ending. Wishing it had not come to that, that we could have altered the past . That we had not given anybody that kind of power over us , to manipulate and hurt us in the worst way possible. And in the despair of our situation, we forget that we have already forgiven the person who caused us the pain and the only person suffering now is us. The only person wallowing in self pity is us. And that the only thing we alter now is our present.The whole concept of moving on from a mistake is running the entire nine yard.. to forgive and forget we need to forgive ourselves too.

The movie frozen has a very beautiful song tagged “let it go”.

So…. Let it go Indeed…… and for that we need to forgive, forgive some more , forget and move on…. In exactly that order…