“Let’s talk”. These two words can be really scary. When your spouse, your boss, your partner or friend says, “Let’s talk” – what’s the first thing that goes through your mind? “What have I done wrong, what’s the problem now?” Of course the anticipation of the conversation is often worse than the actual conversation itself!
Talking is one thing, but communication is another. My homiletics teacher taught us that communication has taken place when what you intend your listener to understand, they actually understand.
Communication has to be one of the most challenging aspects to family, church and business.
Here are some things to consider around communication:
- Don’t assume that people have actually understood what you’ve said. Ask some follow up questions. Or ask the person to repeat back to you what you’ve said. In the same way, when someone is speaking to you, repeat back to them what it is you believe they have said.
- Don’t interrupt. There are a bunch of things that interrupting a person does. At a basic level it’s just rude, but in terms of communication let the person speak until they have said what they needed to say. Interrupting causes anger as well as distrust, with the result that a person will simply stop talking if they feel they are not being heard.
- Pay attention. Too often we don’t really pay attention because we’re impatiently waiting to share our thoughts and opinions. Stephan Covey talks about trying to see things from someone else’s point of view. This takes energy and effort but it’s worth it. Paying attention will accelerate communication and understanding.
- Be patient. The consequences of bad communication is often anger, especially in marriage and romantic relationships. If you can be patient, allowing the communication process to take its course, you will be able to talk through uncomfortable stuff.
- Be humble. Jim Collins talks about Level 5 leadership, which is characterized by humility. Give people the benefit of the doubt, even when you know better. Pride and arrogance are communication barriers of note! Say sorry when you are wrong!
- Be prepared. If you are going into a conversation with important consequences, prepare for it. Write down the issues that need a resolution. Too often important conversations get hijacked by inconsequential issues. Prepared notes will keep the main thing the main thing.
- Everyone has filters. Seeking to understand them will help good communication. We all have history, cultural points of reference, things through which we filter all that we see and hear. Often these filters are based on perceptions that are not always true. Try figuring out your own filters and being aware of other people’s filters. Doing this will make you a better communicator.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless”. Mother Teresa of Calcutta