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Improving Our Communications

by David Brock on February 12th, 2008

I’ve been seeing a lot about “problems in communicating.” Newspapers and TV are filled with stories about “communications problems.” As I speak with business executives around the world, much of the dicussion is rooted in communications problems. Even my wife complains, “you don’t listen!” — It’s true—and I think most husbands probably get this same complaint—but that’s a different issue.

A lot of the materials I see about “improving communications skills” are oriented around presenttion and speaking skills. Something struck me about the things I read and, in fact, a lot of the conversations I have been invovled in that we spend a lot of time talking about talking. Perhaps when we talk about communications skills, we should be spending more of out time talking about listening.

Most of the material I read does talk about listening, but the balance seems to be off. Listening is always treated as either an afterthought or represents the smallest part of the discussion. Perhaps this balance is off.

When we talk about improving how we communicate, shouldn’t we spend most of our time talking about how we listen? Remember, someone once said “God gave us 2 ears and one mouth–use them in that proportion.”

While not profound, we tend to be very good talkers. However, if we focus on becoming much better listeners, perhaps many of our “communications problems” would disappear.

One of the best resources I have read about listening and communicating is a book, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. I picked it up a number of years ago and just re-read it. It is one of those books that you want to keep and periodically re-read to remind yourself and get rid of bad habits.

These tips may also be useful:

1. Listen actively, engage the person in a dialog.
2. Pay attention to the person and what they are saying, not what you are going to say next.
3. Make sure you understand what is being said and what the individual means.
4. Be aware, that you may have to change your opinion and accept someone else’s point of view.
5. Be aware of non-verbal communications.
6. Don’t “multitask,” give them 200% of your attention.
7. Spend more time listening than talking.
8. Do not interrupt. Let them complete what they are saying.
9. Take notes, they remind you of what was covered and slow both of you down sp you can concentrate.
10. Remember, God gave you two ears and one mouth.

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