When you think about it communication is a game. There are at least 2 players – sometimes more. All players are actively involved – talking and listening and talking and listening and talking and talking and talking. Equipment is needed – mouth, ears, bodies, brain. There are guidelines/rules – we take turns listening and talking. Wait a minute, who talks first? Who listens first? Who wrote the rules? Whose rules are these? I need to say something NOW will you please stop talking so I can talk! There’s a lot of noise here. I need to shout over you so you will listen to me!
Hmmm….Maybe there is more to this game than I thought.
Maybe, communication is a process – in fact communication is defined as “a process by which meaning is exchanged between individuals via a common set of symbols”. Exchanging meaning shouldn’t be so difficult. Then why is it that when I am finished talking you still don’t understand what I said and I know you didn’t hear me!
This game is harder than I thought. Maybe I should read the rules.
Rule #1: Stop talking! You can’t hear what someone is saying when you are talking. That includes the conversations(s) going on in your head – you know the comments you are getting ready to blurt out as soon as the other person takes a breath.
Rule #2: Pay Attention! To the words AND to the person speaking. That means looking at them not anywhere else, turning off the electronics, listening with your body (nodding, connecting with your eyes, facing them directly)
Rule #3: Open your mind AND your heart! Each person is interesting in their own way. This is not just about you. It is about the other person too. When you communicate you are creating a relationship and that takes two.
Rule #4: Use your ears! Listen to the tone of voice and the lilt of the words. There is more meaning coming through the sounds than from the words.
Ok, now comes the hard part. As with every game, practice is essential. So go out there and practice. Start with Rule #1. It’s the simplest. It’s the most important. It will make the biggest difference in your relationships.