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speaking

Communication

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Communication - Talking and Listening Habits

Wow! As I was reading a very good book based on making, or should I say helping, individuals on achieving more effective relationships through certain habits, I came across something I try to practice faithfully and preach constantly… the art of communication.

And since the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People seems much more articulate than I, I will thus use his words and interject them with some of mine in an attempt to further such a message, cool?

Right now you are reading this essay I’ve written, right?

Well, reading and writing are both forms of communication.

So are speaking and listening.

In fact, these are the four basic types of communication.

Now think of all the hours we spend doing at least one of them.

The ability to do them well is absolutely critical to being effective in communicating and influencing others, for the better, of course.

Communication is the most important skill in life.

We spend most of our waking hours communicating.

But let’s consider the following: we’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak properly.

But what about listening?

What training or education have we had that enables us to listen so that we really understand another human being from his/her own frame of reference of perspective?

I’ve dealt with lots of very well-educated individuals, yet their listening skills are incredibly poor and, at times, non-existent.

If we really want to interact effectively with someone, to influence them, you spouse, co-worker, supervisor, friend… we must first understand them or at least make the attempt.

But we cannot do so by just speaking. Most people, if they sense you’re just using some kind of speaking technique, will sense duplicity, manipulation, or what I term verbal jujitsu.

They will wonder why you’re doing it, what are your motives, and will not feel safe enough to open up to you.

The real key to influence others for the better is through our example, our actual conduct. The example flows naturally out of our character or the kind of person we truly are. And to do this, we must understand the individual we seek to influence. And to do so, we must first listen, then understand them, and subsequently make ourselves understood and have the intent we seek to impart.

Most of us do not listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the sole intent to reply and have the spotlight shining on us. We are either speaking or preparing to speak. We’re filtering everything through our own model, reading our opinion to others.

If we have a problem with someone, a family member, an authority figure, a co-worker, the attitude is, “that person just doesn’t understand.”

That’s the case with so many of us. We’re filled with our own rightness and pride. We want to be understood and our conversations tend to become effective monologues, and we never really understand what’s going on with the other person.

When another person speaks, we’re usually listening at one of four levels. We may be ignoring the person, not listening at all. We may practice pretending, “yeah, uh-huh., right.”

We may act like selective listeners hearing only certain parts of the conversation. Or we may even practice attentive listening, paying attention and focusing on the words being said. But very few of us practice the fifth level, emphatic (from empathy) listening.

When I say emphatic listening, I’m not referring to the techniques of active or reflective listening, which basically involves mimicking what another person says. That kind of listening is skill based, truncated from character and relationships, and often insults those listened to in such way.

Again, when I say emphatic listening, I mean listening with the intent to understand. Seeking first to understand, to truly understand. It is an entirely different mental shift. Emphatic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it. You see the world the way they see it. You understand how they feel and what they may be going through.

Emphatic listening involves much more than registering, reflecting, or even understanding the words that are being said. Communications experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language.

In emphatic listening, you listen with your ears, but also, and more importantly, listen with your eyes and your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You sense, you intuit, you feel. It is powerful because it gives you accurate data to consider.

When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological respect. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problems solving.

Therefore, beloved comrades, that psychological respect, which is the fruit of truly listening, impacts communication in ways you cannot imagine in every area of life… let’s give it a try, deal?

Ernesto Cole

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