Having a whole degree in communication, plus one in public relations which is, by (my) definition, the art of relating to and communicating with others, I could have thought that I knew all there was to know about how to communicate effectively. I’d be wrong.
I’ve truthfully learned more about how to communicate well with others while operating in my mindfulness business than I ever learned at university (sorry academia). At least, in my undergrad program. Firstly, I should clarify my definition of what ‘communicating well’ means.
By ‘well’, I mean communicating clearly, with clear positioning and intent of outcome.
By ‘well’, I mean with kindness and true empathy. This can include admissions of not knowing how something would feel, or include the kindness of healthy boundary setting.
By ‘well’, I mean by listening consciously just as much, or more than, what ever comes out of my mouth.
When I worked in the corporate world, I learned that vague questions and responses to colleagues do not create genuine connections. Often those who would come in and make a point of saying good morning, asking about everyone’s weekend, or saying goodbye at the end of the day was met with a typical, workplace-like dose of cynicism. I believe it’s important to greet people as you come and go, but I can understand why many people feel that lacking in connection when the communication is limited to only those interactions. What I have learned since then is that conscious listening and responding is the game changer in communication that we all could do with in every aspect of our lives, in every single kind of relationship we have.
Conscious listening is the art of actually listening to the other person talking – not listening to respond with our own thoughts, feelings or opinions, but listening in order to truly hear what they are saying. It is then brought together by the response we do give, once they’re done.
What I’m hearing from you is…
We then feed back to the person what they’ve said, giving them a chance to firstly – feel heard, secondly – affirm whether we’ve understood correctly or not, and thirdly – refine what they’re trying to get across if they feel they need to.
“I’m hearing you’ve had a challenging weekend with family. No wonder you’re feeling a bit off on this Monday.”
“What I’m hearing is that you would like more support in *these areas*.”
“I can hear your excitement about your daughter’s wedding.”
“What I’m hearing is that your process of dealing with stress is a little different to mine.”
It works in any context, whether professional or personal, in corporate or sports teams, or otherwise! I’ve brought this practice in to the team building activities of the sports team I manage and it opened up a whole lot of understanding around each athlete’s and coach’s perceptions of each other’s reactions while on court and in the heat of the game. Misunderstanding breeds contempt. So often when we speak to others, we speak to be heard, not to hear or understand. Instead, bring curiosity into your interactions and communication – even in one-sided communication online – and open up a space in which connection can unfold. Often with a big sense of relief.