Over the course of this year I have been completing a management course to develop my leadership and day to day management capabilities and recently some intentional investment into my marriage through commencing a marriage course with my husband. And now I am getting a singular message loud and clear - good communication is vital, takes practice and is pivotal to ALL successful relationships.
This is not new to any of you; however I do think it is rocket science! Why? If we all know about it and get its importance why are so many of us less than great at it? Because its hard work and feels complicated to get it right most of the time.
There are many skills we need to engage - we must actively listen, remember to reflect to check understanding, show empathy, be present and mindful, seek to understand, all the while remembering to not interrupt, disengage, provide advice and so on. Phew, it’s a lot of hard work!
As much as the Calvin and Hobbs illustration is cute and funny, I believe subconsciously many of us fall into the traps of bad communication simply because we are focused on our agenda, points of view and to be understood by the other person. Some bad listening habits are outlined below – identify with any?
1. Disengaging – allowing yourself to being thinking about other things, getting distracted by things happening in our environment.
2. Reassuring – instead of getting comfortable with someone expressing a negative emotion, we jump in with “it’ll be ok”, “nothing to worry about” types of comments which can shut a conversation down.
3. Giving Advice – offering solutions (too early) instead of empathising and seeking further understanding.
4. Going off on a tangent – picking up on a comment and using that to respond and go off on your own agenda and in doing so taking the conversation away from listening to the other person.
5. Interruptions – self-explanatory, not letting the other person finish speaking before interjecting.
I am the first to put my hand up and acknowledge that I am a serial interrupter! It takes a conscious effort for me to stay silent and remain engaged.
In a service delivery capacity, it is at the centre of our success to be competent communicators – it has the following benefits:
Individuals feel understood.
Requirements will be better articulated when we don’t interrupt or disengage with solutions before seeking full comprehension.
Trust and partnership are nurtured.
We foster a safe environment where individuals can share their thoughts and concerns without fear of being invalidated.
As a provider of services, we are more likely to hit the mark with our clients because we have taken the time to understand what is important to them.
Here at Magnetism communicating effectively helps us proactively live out our values of “Working as one” and “doing what we say”. As a start we can practice the skill of “reflective listening”. This means letting the other person speak, reflecting back without your lens, what they have said to you, clarify what is most important to them, ask them what they would like to do about what they have spoken about (if anything) and then ask if they have anything more to speak about. Notice that there is no response, no advice or solutions…the adage “seek first to understand and then to be understood” is a good rule of thumb here.
It will take practice, but we are always willing to learn and grow, especially when it involves the hallmark of successful partnerships.