I used to believe I communicated perfectly. And as a communication coach that shouldn’t seem surprising.
In fact, I spent a lot of time creating vivid, powerful stories in my head that translated to perfection. But when it came time to actually speak what needed to be spoken, the words that poured out of my mouth were questionable. Even the questions I so artfully crafted in my head felt like mush when verbally communicated. The aftermath was uncontrollable shaking, flush cheeks, and dry mouth; making the entire situation worse because I couldn’t even correct (or save) myself.
My intent to communicate as perfect as I thought, was pure; yet my naivety got in the way. I even thought when I asked a question; I would get the answer I would always get the answer I needed or wanted.
Novel concept, right? Yah, that is what I thought too.
What I didn’t understand (at the time) was that communication involves verbal, nonverbal, underlying context, perception, and response; just to name a few elements.
And since I was not yet well informed in the art of communication; I slid down a rabbit hole of self-pity and destructive thought patterns. If I couldn’t get what I asked for; then why ask for anything at all?
Yep, I went there. I only asked for help when my life depended on it. I trusted very few people and this behavior fed my perfectionist tendencies. When I did speak, it was very direct and showed very little of the compassion and empathy that lived at the core of my soul.
Suddenly, or not so much, my life started to shift. Well, let me backup, my life transformed in a way I didn’t see coming.
I was looking for something and didn’t know it until I found him, my coach.
Let’s call him Dale. Dale challenged my thoughts from the beginning of our coaching relationship. I went to work shifting my perspective and thoughts, my intentions, my actions, my energy, and then Walla; my personal and professional life transformed.
Through the process of implementing new ideas, new tips, old tips with a new spin; the change became evident; how I (or anyone else) communicate is more than words, expressions, and tone; it’s an art and a business.
Communication is a billion-dollar business, without the LLC or Incorporation designation.
Marriages survive or die on the sword of communication. Multi-million-dollar projects fail due to miscommunication, friendships are lost because one question was not answered the way it was expected: therefore, leaving one person heartbroken and the other one angry and resentful. Thousands of great sales deals go bad because a slight misperception turns into a huge misunderstanding that kills the deal.
And all of those things translate to money and time and money; because time is money.
Communication is at the center of everything you do.
Seven years ago, I was trained and certified in Emotional Intelligence. It was a life-changing experience and a story to share at another time. That said, I started coaching formally in my corporate job; and as a side hustle and with family and friends. (You gotta practice somewhere, right?) Four years ago, I trained and became certified as a life coach. My world was forever changed, again.
It was through these life-changing events; the novel concept of coaching others to communicate better in their life; once again, transformed mine.
Like I said, effective communication is an art. There is an art to the questions you ask; how you ask them; how you respond when in dialogue and how you empower the process of communication. Some day I’ll share all more of the great ways you can effectively communicate; for now, the below mentioned are a few of my favorites.
First and foremost, great communication involves asking open-ended questions. To you; this may seem silly, I know it did me. When I talk about open-ended questions; what I really mean is the asking question(s) that allows the conversation to flow without judgment or expectation.
For example: How would, How else, What, Would, or Which or Tell me more…are a few ways to begin an open-ended question. After you ask the question, listen to understand, don’t respond just to respond.
THE ART OF RESPONSE
Who would have thought; how you respond would be an art. Let me ask you this; how often do you answer a question abruptly, rude or defensive? Probably more than you would be willing to admit.
It happens, all the time. You’re human. You may even show up, distracted, have a differing opinion, or a perspective not yet thought out. How you respond will set the stage and determine what happens next. In fact, even when you’re not sure what to say or believe you have to fix a problem; but it’s not yours to fix; one great response that will allow you to work through the next steps. “Your perspective is really interesting, tell me more about how you…(feel about the results, input, feedback, etc.)
First, acknowledge what you hear and see (body language). Second, create the invisible space that allows them to confirm or deny you’re on the right track. In fact, when you confirm what you’ve heard; you are validating that person. Validation is a basic human need and is part of the overall bigger picture of feeling understood and being heard.
Communication is a process. Asking questions is a process. Understanding what’s really going on is a process. The point I’m trying to make…people want to feel heard and it’s a process.
TRUST THE PROCESS, TO HEAR OVER LISTEN
Communication is one of the most difficult parts of any business or personal relationship. It takes time, energy, momentum, and the courage to go into a conversation without all the answers. However, most individuals go into a conversation with goals, objectives, expected outcomes, time restrictions, distractors, and preconceived notions that get in the way of truly connecting with the person on their other side of the invisible (or not so invisible) table.
The process of communication requires that you hear over listen. When you hear: you begin to understand true intent, validate the words, tone, context, perspective, and confirm you’re not solving a problem before it is a known problem. When you listen; you likely cut the person off mid-sentence and fill in the blanks, fix a perceived problem, or tell them what you think they need to hear to help them see results more quickly so you can move on. You make it about you, instead of them. Suggestion: try differently next time and compare results, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
One final thought.
When you trust the process and hear what’s being said; ask open-ended questions, stay curious, occasionally keep your opinions to yourself (even if that means biting your damn tongue); your friends, your boss, your colleagues, your kids, and your partner will thank you.