Talking, speaking, hearing, listening. What could be easier? After all, we have grown up doing it, haven’t we. As babies, we heard our parents, or other adults voices. We learnt to imitate the words and then tested them out, by speaking. Simple, piece of cake.
So, how is it that communication can be so difficult sometimes? Why does apparently simple communication break-down? Simply because there are at least six processes going on in the simple transaction between one person and another. Think about it. Before I say something to another person I must first have a thought or intuition. Then I must put that thought into words, before finally speaking those words.
The person to whom I am speaking then goes through the opposite three stage process. First, they must hear my words. Then they interpret those words, give the words meaning and finally, derive a thought from that interpretation.
That’s six steps. I am not suggesting that every communication flows in this logical step-by-step manner, nor am I suggesting that any of it is necessarily conscious. However, each of these elements is involved in some way in my communication with one other person.
That means there are six ways in which communication can break down, can go astray and lead quickly to mis-communication. And, that’s just with one other person!
Learning Listening and Speaking
Effective communication is something that can be learned, but rarely do we take the time to do so.
How can we more effectively listen? We can learn to focus on the speaker and their words by not interrupting, avoiding distractions, watching for non-verbal cues, not pre-judging, and not making assumptions.
As a speaker we can improve our communication by focussing on our internal thought processes. One technique is to use the THINK acronym, by asking ourselves whether what we want to say is:
It may be worth talking about the mis-communication. This time listening attentively and speaking thoughtfully.