In my previous column, I illuminated 12 primary ways people sabotage their listening, the downside of doing so and some of the major benefits of learning to listen with integrity. I suggested that listening effectively to others offers the most fundamental and powerful communication tool of all. Building the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an empowered communicator and building more successful relationships of all kinds.
In this column, I take the next step and consider the other vital aspect of communication: dialogue.
We often limit the communication process from the outset by getting caught up in the differing personalities among ourselves and others. You’ve likely heard the term personality conflict and also experienced the difficulties these cause in relationships due to the negative judgments that accompany them.
Rather than letting personalities get in the way, choose to look past the illusion of their personality and yours as well. Speak to the best in them from the best in you. Remember: Beneath every personality is a person just like you who’s a byproduct of nature and nurture. They’re doing their best given the circumstances, their capabilities and levels of awareness. Be open with those to whom you’re speaking and you’ll enjoy better relationships.
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. 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 with you that’s free of assumptions, negative judgments and 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 except with a select few, it’s what we want and leads to far more pleasant, successful and satisfying communications.
Stay present in the moment, listening with integrity to truly hear other perspectives. When you’re truly listening, you’ll hear the words being spoken and their tonality. 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 gather valuable information that helps you interact more effectively.
When you come to the point in a conversation where you have the opportunity to share your perspective, it’s important for you 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 impact.
Many people are in the habit of assuming, telling or advising rather than asking questions to gain understanding. Most people aren’t as fond of being told what they should do as they are of being understood. That requires questions. Asking open-ended questions draws out another’s perspective, creating greater clarity for everyone. Come to understand the people with whom you’re speaking, and you’ll be in a much better position 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.
Share your truth in such a way that others come to understand you and draw closer to you in communications and relationships. It’s extremely beneficial to maintain a positive perspective toward those with whom you’re speaking and the situations you’re communicating about — especially when communication becomes challenging.
In every situation in which I have trained individuals and teams to become empowered communicators, the obstacles they repeatedly encountered vanished once they implemented this new approach. Listening and speaking to others as you would want to be spoken to and listened to and adhering to the very powerful intention of creating solutions is empowering to everyone involved.
Poor or ineffective communication is at the heart of unsuccessful relationships in business and life. A different approach is needed to change this. Learning the skills and self-discipline necessary to communicate effectively is imperative if you desire to build solid relationships, be successful and experience more consistent happiness.