Communication is part of our lives. All the time we are communicating something to someone, even though we don’t want to do it. In general, we tend to think that communication is natural and, therefore, we do it right. However, it is a skill we have to learn.
In the same way that we learn to walk, ride a bike, and speak; we should be able to admit that we also are taught how to transmit what we want, imagine, feel and think. That also means we can improve and acquire more proficiency!
Have you ever regretted saying things you didn’t want to? Have you ever forgotten to put into words your feelings because you were distracted? Have you ever promised to help someone but you were unable to lend an ear? Or on the other hand, have you ever felt you were wasting your time talking to a friend because he or she wasn’t paying attention to you and your problems? These situations happen because we consider having a dialog is an easy matter, but, in fact, we experience communication problems all the time. At work, with our partner, friends, kids, at school. Everywhere. Every time.
After accepting the fact that we must learn how to communicate, we are able to start becoming better communicators. In my opinion, the key to achieve is to follow one single but essential rule: to listen.
What I mean with “listen” is not like when we listen to the radio or a podcast, here “listen” means active listening.
Active listening, to clarify it, involves paying attention to the person we are talking to. It is really easy to say but hard to do. Why? Because generally speaking, when we are having a conversation we don’t often listen to the other person, we are thinking about what to say next. Sometimes we want to say something clever or to give a good example or to tell an anecdote just to feel we are great communicators. In spite of not hearing the needs of our interlocutor, we are ignoring him or her. What’s more, we are forgetting the fact that communication is between two parts and not just us.
In order to focus on the other person, avoid imagining what you want to verbalize. Ask him or her about what you didn’t understand, look the person in the eyes, and use those little interjections as “yes” “oh” “ouch” “alas!”, and so on to show you are actually listening and that you are interested in the conversation. Another way to do this is reformulating ideas and important thoughts.
Another point is to remember to keep all distractions away. Stop looking at your phone. If you can, try to turn it off. Also, practice clearing your mind, maintain all your thoughts away and prepare just to be all ears.
Besides those points, I would recommend considering the feelings of the person, aside from yours. What is he/she feeling? What needs and emotions is he/she conscious or unconsciously expressing? Is this person comfortable? What does his/her body say to you? How the way he/she is feeling affects you?
Apart from that, it is crucial to accept what you don’t want to hear. It is so difficult to hear someone criticizing you and not thinking it’s something personal or that you want to run away. This means you need to hear and not answer quickly. Instead of that, take your time and prepare to talk. Be kind and be grateful for the opinions but consider not reacting or saying something if you don’t feel like it.
The last tip but not less important, linked to the one above, is to keep in mind that listening to someone doesn’t mean to agree. You can share your opinions and points of view, in a respectful way, and these may be different or not, but it doesn’t matter. Don’t feel you have to agree to have the same belief.
In conclusion, to become a better communicator, it is crucial to become a better listener. Remember that communication means 80% listening and 20% speaking. Moreover, your body, gestures, and tone also communicate, be aware of that!