In my last column, I revealed a variety of ways in which people sabotage their listening and the downside of doing so as well as some of the benefits of learning to listen with integrity. I suggested that listening effectively to others can be the most fundamental and powerful communication tool of all. And developing the habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an empowered communicator and building more successful relationships.
Let’s now consider the other vital aspect of communication: your actual use of words.
We often limit the communication process from the very beginning by getting caught up in the differing personalities between ourselves and others. The negative judgments that come with this attitude aren’t necessary or effective.
Rather than letting personalities get in the way, choose instead to look past the illusion. Speak to the best in them from the best in you. Remember: Beneath every personality is a person just like you who’s doing his or her best given their capabilities and the circumstances. Be open to those with which you speak.
Do your part to create a safe environment for communication to take place. Choose to be safe within yourself so that no matter what other people say, you remain calm and composed. After all, it’s merely their perspective and not necessarily true. Know who you are and do your best to not take things personally.
Contribute to a safe environment for the other person, too, by creating a situation free of assumptions, judgments and negative criticism, where there’s no price to pay for being who they are. While most of us are unaccustomed to a safe environment in which to communicate, it’s what we want and leads to far more pleasant, productive and successful communications.
Stay present in the moment, listening with integrity to truly hear other people’s perspectives. When you’re truly listening, you’ll hear the words being spoken and their tonality. But more importantly, you’ll also be able to watch their body language for signs of how they feel and what they think. When you’re absolutely present in your listening, you’ll gather valuable information that will help you use your words more effectively.
Many people are in the habit of assuming, telling or advising, rather than asking questions to gain understanding. Typically, people are not as fond of being told what they should do as they are of being understood. And that requires questions. Asking open-ended questions draws out another’s perspective, creating greater clarity for everyone. Come to understand the person with which you’re speaking, and you’ll gain a much better position in which to communicate with them.
Avoid giving advice or telling others what they should do or who they should be. Instead, encourage their personal growth and development by exploring options through questions that guide them toward personal clarity and truth. By doing so, they’ll discover their own answers with your help.
When you come to the point in a conversation where you have the opportunity to share your perspective, it’s important to be impeccable with your words. Avoid gossip. Say only what you mean, and mean what you say. Use your words with the intention of having a positive effect.
Share your truth in such a way that others come to understand you and draw closer to you in communication and relationship. It’s extremely beneficial to maintain a positive perspective towards those with which you’re speaking and the situation about which you’re communicating, especially when communication becomes challenging.
Poor or ineffective communication is commonly at the heart of unsuccessful relationships in life and business. A different approach is necessary to change this. Listening and speaking to others as you would want to be spoken and listened to and adhering to the powerful intention of creating solutions empowers everyone involved.
In every situation in which I’ve trained individuals and teams to become empowered communicators, the obstacles they repeatedly encountered quickly vanish once they use this new approach. Learning the skills and self-discipline necessary to communicate effectively is imperative if you desire to build solid relationships, become successful and experience more consistent happiness.