Conscious Communication: bringing communication
up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above
in the background while you file, exercise, ride to work, etc.
Quick Communication Tip
A Framework for Listening
Virtually everything I’ve
read about “improving communication,” deals with how to say what you
want to say. They talk about your tone, projection, and occasionally
address the content.
There’s almost an afterthought that you should also be a good listener.
And how do you do that? What does it really mean? Certainly there’s more
to it than merely waiting for the other person to pause before you talk.
What should you listen for, and what should you do when you hear it? Are
there cues in what the other person is saying that can help you “get”
Absolutely. One common theme from my workshops, seminars and
coaching is that there are verbal cues hiding throughout our speech,
telling much more than just the words alone. If we’re paying attention,
when we hear these cues, we can use this information to help us
understand where the other person is coming from. This gives us real
context for their words, and as we know context gives words meaning.
Without this process of active listening, we tend to plug in our own
context for their words, which can make them sound nutty, selfish,
unthinking, or even dumb. And, of course this is a two-way street. If
others are listening to you with their own context being plugged in,
they’re most likely forming inaccurate impressions of you as well.
The Empty Cup
The old story about a student brimming with all he’d learned, and
visiting his Zen master for tea, illustrates the first rule of active
listening. The master was filling the student’s teacup until it was
overflowing, and the student cried out for him to stop as no more would
fit. The master pointed out that the student was also too full for
anything more to fit, and suggested returning with an empty cup.
One of the easiest and most powerful things you can do when listening to
someone, is to start with an empty cup. Merely by ridding yourself of
assumptions and projections about what they’re going to say or why, you
open the space for their words to have their own meaning.
Without that space, there are so many areas we can steer ourselves wrong
from semantics to subtext. We all have our own definitions to words like
integrity, friendship, loyalty, love, commitment, and so on. For me to
assume you mean the same thing I do when talking about this sort of
thing would be fast, easy, and probably dead wrong. I better check in
with you early and often to make sure I understand what you mean with
When it comes to subtext, we really need to give people room. This is
where recognizing your own operating system or lens type (how you take
in and process the world around you) really helps. This can help you
clarify and differentiate what’s going on inside you, from what may be
going on inside the person talking to you. Understanding their operating
system and yours takes your communication to new heights.
Cues and Patterns
Although we’ve addressed some of these cues and patterns from the
context of increasing sales, enhancing our communication in all our
interactions can only make our lives better. Let’s look at some of the
verbal cues that help you understand how people process.
The faster someone talks, the less likely they’re interested in details,
and the more likely they’re somewhat visual in their way of processing.
Do they say “I see what you mean?” or “I hear you?” The slower someone
talks, the more likely they’re interested in details, issues of safety
or security, and potentially process on a more kinesthetic level. They
might say “I get it.”
The patterns that these cues illuminate give you information about how
to adjust your language, tone, and pace to reach them. One cue would be
if the person tends to say “I feel” versus “I know.” This would tell you
that they’re more likely motivated by aspiring toward an ideal than
avoiding pain. If they use “I think,” it would indicate that they’re
more likely motivated by avoiding pain than aspiring toward an ideal. Of
course this isn’t absolute, but more of a leaning or tendency.
Listening is an active skill. When you’re doing it well, you can’t
possibly be planning what you’ll say when the other person pauses. You
really have to pay attention to them fully. Remember to check in and
make sure you really understand, before going too far down the road of
misunderstanding. This brings up an old concept in carpentry, that
applies in communication as well: measure twice, cut once. It may appear
to take more time at first, but not having to fix things afterward saves
much more than time. And what’s the point of the conversation; to finish
it fast, or convey something?
Quick Communication Tip
Slow Down to Speed Up
A vast majority of
misunderstandings and miscommunications can be avoided simply by slowing
down a little bit. When we rush through our communication, we make
several mistakes. We don’t check in along the way frequently enough to
ensure that we truly understand. Then our misunderstanding takes us
further and further from their meaning, so the problem builds on itself.
At the very least, when we rush through, we're like a skipping stone
that never really engages. Is the point of this communication to have it
be over as quickly as possible or to share something? Which desired
outcome are we focusing on? Wouldn’t it take less time to understand
something fully, than to have to go back and argue over who said what
when? Once again, what is our desired outcome there? Is it to be right
or to understand one another?
Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or
catapult you forward? Come visit the
or better yet,
contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.
- the podcast series
KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Personal Life Media -
"Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (full interview)
for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain
2nd Edition now available
visit the Blog.
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