We all want to communicate effectively. Right? Most of the time, most people assume that they are doing a pretty good job of communicating effectively. That is what sets people up for difficulties, confusion, and the complete breakdown of effective communication. The real truth is, most of us were never taught how to communicate effectively. We learned to talk as toddlers, yes. We learned to read and write as grade school children. Yet, as an adult, how many times have you been down right certain that you communicated clearly a point of significant importance to someone, only to discover that they completely misunderstood you, or misinterpreted your intention, or didn’t give your words the importance that you thought they deserved?
You can be certain you have not communicated effectively if you are frequently repeating yourself, if conversations frequently erupt into arguments, if you are feeling like no one ever listens to you. So, what can you do differently? You ask yourself in exasperation, “What does a person need to do to be heard around here?!!” Well, sometimes, in order to be heard, one needs to know how to listen. The most frequent barrier to effective message sending is that the intended recipient has their own agenda, their own message, which they would like very much to broadcast. If they are busy attempting to send a message, then they are not in listening mode. So, if you try to send your message, they will not take time to fully listen.
If you are not being heard, maybe you should take time to listen carefully to the other person. Simple, but not easy. In order to listen, you need to set aside your agenda completely, until you are sure the other person feels heard. You need to also turn off your emotional reactions. You can’t effectively listen to someone if you are invested in convincing them of the error of their point of view. If you respond to everything they say with a rebuttal, and you feel as though you MUST make your point, you are not truly listening. In order to listen effectively, you must check in with the other person to verify that what you think you are hearing is close to what they intended to say. If you aren’t doing this, there is much opportunity for misinterpretation.
Many people get confused about listening. They think that if they just listen to someone, the other person will think that they are agreeing with them, or condoning their behavior, or being too accepting. None of the above is true. You can listen to an entire persuasive speech and not be persuaded, but still listen attentively. Listening does not equal agreeing. It just means you are being attentive, and making sure that the other person knows you are not only hearing their message, but understanding the content.
How do you learn to listen? When we are toddlers and learning to talk, we naturally listen to everything we hear….toddlers are sponges and not only listen, but ask continuous questions about what they are hearing. If you’ve recently spent any time with a toddler or preschooler, you know what I mean about the continuous questioning. But somewhere along the way, we stop questioning what we hear. What I’m asking you to do, is listen with the curiosity of a 4 year old. Listen as if your life depended on 100% accurate transfer of information.
Parents tend to issue commands to children and often forget to listen. Spouses come to see me because they have both forgotten how to listen to each other, or perhaps they never knew. Most relationship issues can be resolved if one person slows down and takes the time to listen to the other, with an open heart. If you aren’t being heard, stop talking. Close your mouth, turn off your agenda, and open your heart and your ears. Listen. Ask questions. Listen more. Keep listening until you are sure you understand what the other person is trying to say. Then ask if you’ve got it, and listen some more. Most people are starved for being heard. They are convinced that no one cares. Just the act of listening without judgment, and giving what someone has to say your full attention can open up new possibilities for effective communication.
When was the last time you opened your heart and your ears, and listened with no agenda except to make sure the other person felt heard? If you would like some help with learning to listen, or communicating more effectively, please contact me at: 831-214-8087.
Wishing you effective, heartfelt listening, and the blessings of being heard.