Communicating effectively is not hard. I acknowledge that there are communication devices and practices that support frictionless interactions and that these devices may not always be utilized during exchanges, but a basic target of good taste and message sufficiency, should be the aspiration during the communication process. Good taste falling within the realm of language that supports positive engagement and message sufficiency designed to provide as much factual content as possible, within an appropriate time frame.
Because humans are so influenced innately, by ego, the need to be right, the need to maintain a superior public standing and the need for approval from those to be impressed, individuals fall victim to these emotional drivers. Let me not even begin to speak about the need for one-up-man-ship during verbal exchanges.
When individuals fall victim to their negative communication impulses, the ability to rise to a level of conversational intelligence that is not tainted overly, by self-absorption, becomes a big challenge and one that is difficult, (but not impossible), to overcome.
Communication works well when an individual is able to suspend his or her position or perspective on the subject matter, (especially when it comes to opposing viewpoints) and really focus on what the speaker is attempting to convey.
Communication works well when an individual is able to suspend his or her position or perspective on the subject matter, (especially when it comes to opposing viewpoints) and really focus on what the speaker is attempting to convey. While this may sound like a simple matter of active listening, we should not be deceived by its apparent simplicity. It’s one of the hardest actions to master. When an individual fails to exercise control over his or her listening, messages become contaminated by dominant thoughts and internal states. Percolating thoughts override the practice of neutral listening.
As a matter of fact, anyone who has tried and failed, to suspend his or her position on a matter, in the midst of a juicy argument, may be able to relate to what I’m saying about contaminated listening.
Suspending one’s position in the face of opposing viewpoints, is a matter of firstly, owning a mindset that considers everyone’s opinion to be valid. This mentality flows from a wider lens of respect for every human being and as an anchoring value in an individual’s belief system. One of my ground rules during training sessions, that I never allow to be violated, is that no one is allowed to dismiss another person’s viewpoint, because everyone’s opinion is valid. There is zero tolerance for dismissive language or behaviour.
One of my ground rules during training sessions, that I never allow to be violated, is that no one is allowed to dismiss another person’s viewpoint, because everyone’s opinion is valid
When everyone’s opinion is viewed as valid, uncouth engagement is minimized and a level of equanimity prevails between conversationalists. Sarcasm, one of my favourite lexicon menaces, should rarely rear its head under these conditions.
Mastering the art of communication is within everyone’s reach. If I were to share a beginner’s guide, I would include three actions.
The first action would be for an individual to launch a round of self-reflection. Our mental, emotional and behavioural programming has the effect of keeping us closeted in our own echo chambers. Lack of awareness compounds this state of ignorance. Unpacking our programming requires a brutally honest dose of self-reflection to begin the process of unearthing self-awareness. A useful exercise to support this activity, would be to ask a friend, colleague or acquaintance who is a truth-teller, to give clinical feedback on one’s style of communication. But, buckle-up, whilst the feedback may be truthful, it may not be pretty.
Mastering the art of communication is within everyone’s reach
Communicating to share meaning, rather than simply to exchange words, can facilitate the effective meeting of minds. Individuals have a tendency to act as their own audiences. They talk to themselves, in their own style, without sparing a thought for moderating the differences that may exist in communication style with their audience. No wonder there’s so much friction when people exchange messages. A useful starting question would be, “How should I flex my communication style to enable a frictionless exchange?” Having posed the question to oneself, the action that follows, should drive the communication process to be fruitful, instead of tense. The closing question would be, “Have we shared meaning?”
For those individuals who aspire to lead teams and organizations, getting a handle on the ability to flex one’s communication style, will be a game-changer for driving teamworking momentum. I wish businesses would put an end to the practice of promoting personnel who are sound technically, but who suffer from communication inadequacy.
It requires individuals to not take the spoken word or associated gestures personally
Becoming a master communicator has an audacious pre-requisite. It requires individuals to not take the spoken word or associated gestures personally. Can you imagine a leader being corrected publicly and not feeling ashamed?
This is leadership strength, showing up as communication vulnerability.