Successful relationships, whether in life or business, rest firmly on the ability of those involved to effectively communicate. The reality, however, is that most of us aren’t taught how to communicate with the intention of building relationships and creating solutions. In fact, not listening and poor communication constitute primary causes of dysfunction in the business world.
Simply look at your own life and your relationships to understand the importance of the communication process. In those relationships you find most rewarding, fulfilling and successful, communication is more effective than not. Conversely, when you consider your relationships that are the most unsettling, which cause the most pain and suffering and are the least successful, communication is either not present at all or is so limited in its effectiveness the relationship suffers as a result.
Not truly listening and ineffective communication often lead to broken businesses, disgruntled team members, unsatisfied clients, “failed” marriages, disassociation with loved ones, frustration and anger, to name only a few.
Here are some important questions to consider: Do you like it when others truly listen to you? Do you feel respected, acknowledged and valued when others really listen to what you’re saying? Do you have greater rapport and trust with those who actually listen to you? In other words, do you like it when others care enough to be absolutely present with you in their listening? The truth is, we all want to be heard.
There are several sabotaging behaviors, or blockers, that limit our listening abilities. These include:
- Sparring: You actually look for things with which to disagree.
- Derailing: You derail the train of conversation with sudden changes to the topic or make jokes as you become bored or uncomfortable.
- Rehearsing: Your attention is focused on preparing what you’ll say next.
- Advising: You believe you have the answer to the other person’s situation and go into the mode of offering advice rather than truly listening.
- Judging: You prejudge the person you are communicating with and use negative labels to do so.
- Placating: You agree with everything the other person says in an effort to get along, to be liked or because you aren’t truly listening.
- Being right: Your mind focuses on arranging the information, saying things and/or acting in ways so as to not be wrong.
- Daydreaming: Your attention is on anything other than the conversation, like a vacation you want to take, things you need to get done or an unresolved issue in your life.
- Identifying: You use the stories of others as a reference point to tell your own at the expense of theirs.
- Comparing: Comparing makes it hard to listen because you assess who’s more intelligent, more confident and more emotionally healthy or has worked harder.
- Mind reading: Mind readers don’t pay much attention to what people actually say. In fact, they often distrust it. If you make assumptions about how people react to you, then you’re probably wrong.
- Filtering: You listen to some things and not to others. You only pay attention to see if somebody’s angry or unhappy; if you’re in emotional danger; or to avoid hearing certain things, particularly anything threatening, critical or unpleasant.
In which of these listening blocks do you engage? All of them? Some of them? Not sure?
Participants in my communication trainings are always astounded to learn, first hand, just how much they unknowingly sabotage their personal and professional relationships by not listening. Reversing this and becoming someone who listens with integrity is simple once you’re taught how.
Listening effectively to others can be the most fundamental and powerful communication tool of all. The first step to improvement is to have a good understanding of what you can do or stop doing to get better. The ill effects of your ineffective listening are all but eliminated and interactions become more successful and pleasant as you stop talking or thinking and begin truly listening to others.
Building the powerful habit of truly listening is the first step in becoming an effective communicator and building successful relationships. Ultimately, the valuable pieces of information needed to foster healthy relationships — and more successful businesses — will be shared and heard.