I often say that we all see the world through a different lens. In the same way, we often hear the world through different filters. Good communication builds bridges; poor communication quickly erodes cooperation and trust.
Here are some of communication’s greatest enemies. Are you including these in your conversations?
- Are you addicted to being right? Do you share your point of view or debate a point until others feel alienated or beaten into submission? There’s a lot more to gain from learning to compromise, concede and not make the other person ‘wrong’. There are many numbers that add up to 9; 4+5, 8+1, 6+3, etc. Don’t get stuck on ‘your’ way.
- Are you paying attention? How can you hear someone if you’re looking at your email, texts or thinking about what you want for lunch? People know when they’re only being half-heard and it shows a lack of respect.
- Are you thinking of your response instead of listening? You’re already formulating your counterpoint or chomping at the bit to make your point—which means you’re not listening to the speaker. Be present i.e., learn to practice active listening.
- Do you interrupt? You may be excited about building on someone else’s contribution, but it’s just not polite to step on someone’s words. Show some restraint.
- Are you judging? We all have filters that help us formulate our opinions. However, they can predispose us to judge the conversation prematurely. Make the effort to listen with an open mind, and to ignore those voices in your head that want to discount what doesn’t immediately appeal to you.
- Could you be misinterpreting the meaning? Sometimes we just mishear things. We don’t get what’s being said or ‘hear’ it in a way that the speaker didn’t intend. It could be their words, or how we’ve interpreted them. This is a good opportunity to ask someone to clarify what they mean. Sometimes we hear one word and it throws us off on the wrong track; a restatement of the person’s point can change all that.
- Do you mindread? What’s the point of having a conversation if you think you already know how the other person will respond? It’s better not to assume how another person will respond. Many a good collaboration doesn’t even happen because of mindreading.
When you know what can stall a healthy exchange of ideas, it’s easier to catch yourself in the act. Next time you’re ready to speak, be the person everyone leans forward to hear.