The Foundation of Communication
Is there someone you always seem to disagree with? You could be right. And we all love to believe we are right…right? But often we are wrong, and it takes a very mature, confident and wise person to admit when they are wrong. But usually it’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about the truth coming into our lives to provide clarity, lead us toward success, bring happiness, and to benefit those we love.
If you are only concerned with being the one who is always correct in their understanding, you will never be considered a wise person. It is towards the goal of being and remaining wise people that I have included the following information that I gleaned from professionals in various fields: Psychologists, Sociologists, Ministers of Christ, best selling Authors, Scholars and Great orators. What I present here may sound too rudimentary and basic, because it is foundational to good communications skills. And yet, the majority of our populace appears to be ignorant of these simple facts.
Some of my most profitable friendships have been cultivated from what began as disagreements. Often, after truly listening to, and understanding a person I had formerly disagreed with, I had to say, “I was wrong and you were right.” Wow! The respect those simple words garner is amazing. People respect you and trust you a whole lot more if they have heard you say those words. When we can acknowledge the times we are wrong, people will realize we are genuine—the real deal. I have made lifelong friends who now serve as wise counselors for me, and me for them, simply by humbling ourselves enough to improve our communication skills and begin to really hear, listen and comprehend, and even experience the feelings of the other guy.
When being good listeners we employ everything at our disposal: Eyes, ears, minds, and also our hearts.
We must learn to respectfully ask questions. Ask for clarification! Don’t simply guess what they meant by what they said, ask them. We could simply ask, “What do you mean by that?” This leads both parties to clear communication. The very same people I formerly disagreed with have now come to me for advice and for counselling. Whereas before, we seemed to always be at loggerheads.
But first I had to learn how to keep my flapper shut long enough to allow the discernment that God’s Spirit offers, to lead me. You don’t have to answer right away! Sometimes you might want to wait until the next day to answer. Many things require no answer, no rebuttal, and no response at all.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson
Whatever your occupation, you will become much more successful when you improve your communication skills. But we will never be good communicators until we learn how to listen and decipher what a person is really saying. All too often we only think we understand what is being spoken. One reason for this is that our minds tend to jump forward to what we believe they are saying, or are going to say, based on the first several words or the first few sentences. Multitudes of people either stop listening and/or interrupt the speaker before they’ve had a chance to lay a foundation for what they hope to relate. But the crux of what a person wants to communicate comes towards the END of their discourse—ALWAYS!
Usually people will automatically believe they disagree with what is said by certain people, because they have never really listened to them in the past. Instead of hearing the entire message and then mulling it over, they are forming a rebuttal while the speaker is still talking. They are convinced that the person is disagreeing with them. This reveals just how insecure they are with themselves. People fear being wrong, and they fear looking bad. Some folks are so insecure that they are shattered and feel devastated just because another person might know something they did not yet know, or the other guy had a better idea. Sadly, what people do in an attempt to avoid looking bad, actually has the opposite effect.
One of the ugliest blights upon the earth are people too arrogant to consider an idea that originated outside themselves. To the mature soul, memories of youthful arrogance are a source of stinging embarrassment.
I still love the following ancient little rhyme.
“A wise old owl sat in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Now wasn’t that a wise old bird?”
Listening well is the first step in becoming a great communicator. It will help us not only in conversation, but it is also the cornerstone of learning to become a great public speaker. Listen and ask for clarification, understand, craft your answer well and then speak. It’s a simple formula that’s been around since before Plato and Socrates, and both of them knew and used this formula as they spoke to huge crowds, as well as in their writings.
“Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.” –Jeanette Winterson
Listening is done with more than just the ears, also employed are the eyes and especially the mind. In fact, good listening is actually PERCEPTION.
“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.” –Robert Baden-Powell
Notice how the way we feel towards a particular person or how we feel about any particular subject always throws a rusty wrench into the cogs of communicating. Our feelings should never enter into the equation of practicing good communication skills. Our feelings, if allowed, will stymie our understanding every time. If you’ve done much study of human behavior, you know how strong emotion and reason do not play well together. When communicating we want to allow intellect to rule over emotion. Powerful feelings can block a person’s access to higher reasoning and intellect which takes place in the frontal cortex of human brains.
“Never allow emotion to hijack what could have been a highly profitable conversation.”–SB
Good communication skills are a monolithic topic and there is much we could discuss. But these basics are an essential beginning point. Without them we would be dumber than a bucket full of hollow rocks. We would miss out on many blessings, friendships, and lose access to wisdom we could have made our own. That’s why it is my prayer that this little post will inspire folks to do some research, study, and learn how to become better listeners than we already are.
By the way, Jesus never has to worry about misunderstanding what another person says. He sees directly into every heart and He knows our motives and our every thought.
“Even before I have formed a word with my tongue, you, LORD, know it completely!” Psalm 139:4