By Connie K. Thompson June 28, 2023
Several years ago I was sitting next to a couple at the airport who were in a somewhat heated conversation about their relatives coming for Christmas. He was giving her reasons why they should invite his parents and she was responding with an adamant “No” after each reason. Finally, a moment of silence occurred when both people looked totally exasperated until the man calmly announced, “Okay, fine. I’ll call them today and tell them to come for Christmas.” The woman then jumped up and yelled, “How did you hear ‘yes’ when I was definitely saying ‘no’?” just before she stormed off. I got the definite feeling that their airplane flight was going to be anything but relaxing.
Have you ever been in situations where you wondered how people you’re with get exactly the wrong message when you talk? Have others stared at you in disbelief as you state what you thought was obviously their position?
Listening is a heavily underrated skill that most of us claim to be good at, but we’re not. Actually, taking in another’s words and thoughts requires a great deal of focus on your part.
Here are 9 overlooked components of communication that are necessary for understanding another:
1. Understanding the words used by the speaker. Are they technical, too general, misused, or easily confused with other words? When in doubt, ask for clarification.
2. Voice volumes are often overlooked. We blame it on a busy world with a lot of noise and interference but speaking volume can relay the speaker’s message louder than their words.
3. Pauses in sentences can often speak louder than words. Watch how the speaker times their information with their breathing.
4. We think we know what the other person is trying to say before they open their mouths. Do we assume we already know what the other person is saying so we don’t have to listen carefully to their words? Shut down your own righteous opinions while listening.
5. Humans believe that our opinions are always correct and that we know best. Don’t make the assumption that the speaker has nothing to offer you in wisdom or knowledge. Ask for their reasons for acting or believing as they do.
6. Body language can often contradict the words that others use. The words say “I’m so happy to meet you” while the body language says, “Yeah, right. Where’s the nearest exit?” If in doubt, ask the speaker.
7. Communication via technology can often lead us in the wrong direction. I had a fellow co-worker once text me “FU.” When I called her and asked for clarification, she said, “Oh, yeah. ‘Follow up.’” When in doubt, check it out.
8. We are too busy to listen. We don’t take time to truly question others about their decisions or understand their point of view because our schedules are more important than listening to others.
9. Trust is essential when listening to another. Can you be trusted to care, not to ridicule, or to betray a confidence? Bartenders are great listeners because they have no vested interest in our words but are masters at appearing empathic.
Which of these are you good at? Which do you overlook because you are too busy formulating your answer or next argument?
It takes a few moments longer to be a good listener but the consequences of not listening can be devastating for years. A little practice at truly listening can make life less stressful and more rewarding if we just take the time.