Seek first to understand. The dictionary defines communication as “the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings”. I think the key word is ‘successful’.
Have you ever traveled to someplace you didn’t know the language? Communication is hard and the tendency is to talk louder so the people around you can understand you better. It doesn’t help. Louder does not work.
I’ve traveled to places where they spoke Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Flemish, Swiss German (it’s different), Australian (it’s different too) and I can tell you it was a challenge to be understood. Even if I said the right words I generated laughter as the meaning was not apparent to me.
I was working in Mexico and studying hard to learn Spanish. My friend Pepe came by and said “Que pasa!?”. I was working on an assembly line where we painted cars and at that point we were only getting a few cars a day. Maybe 10 or so.
I responded “Estoy esperando” and Pepe burst out laughing. Now I thought I said “I’m waiting” and after he quit laughing he explained to me I had to say what I was waiting for. I should have said “Estoy esperando para coches” or “I am waiting for cars”. He told me what I had said the first time was correct the correct words for “I’m waiting” but in that dialect it meant I was pregnant.
During that trip my Spanish got better and at the end I was able to understand most of what was said around me. I still had trouble speaking but I captured the thoughts my friends and co-workers has to share most of the time. It took a long time to get to that point.
And the point I’m making here is not about a different language but simply to say it can take a lot of time to understand what someone means, not just what they say.
Listening is a difficult thing to do when you’re anxious to share what you have to say but not sharing your thoughts until the other person is ready to listen can be a big step in the direction of communication. I’m practicing this and sometimes I forget what I was going to say because I was listening to them instead and I count that as a success.
If my thought was critical I find it comes back to me and we can add to the conversation but sometimes it’s just better to listen some more. Most people are anxious to share their thoughts and someone who really listens to them is so rare they truly appreciate the effort and time you give them.
Sometimes all I really need to add to the conversation is a sincere “Thank you” and a smile. Put down the bull horn and listen closely. You might be surprised how much you learn in the process.
Thanks for listening,
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