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 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.

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