Birds of a feather flock together…
Communication is something that for the most part we take for granted. Most people unconsciously assume that because they can speak and listen they are perfectly adequate communicators, and for the most part that is probably true enough. However, communicating under normal circumstances with people we know is relatively easy and poses no great challenge for anyone, although, even under those circumstances misunderstanding, confusion and even disagreement is possible. But what about those times when communication is really important to our success, happiness, personal satisfaction or the need to overcome personal adversity or challenge of some kind? That is when we really need to communicate well, even masterfully to achieve an outcome that is important or even necessary to our future.
The challenge with communication is that most people actually think that they are good at it. In my communication seminars I use an exercise that, whilst really simple, finds even good communicators lost for words and it shows just how complex communication really is because it is more than just being able to string two sentences together. Really effective communication is like the coming together of sheet music in the hands of an orchestra, all neatly choreographed through the movements of the conductor’s baton. Highly effective communication requires a combination of skills and necessitates proficiency in all of them. Great communication is not about opening one’s mouth and allowing the words to flow out like spilled water from a jug. Great communication is about thought, consideration, listening, empathy, reiteration, confirmation, compromise and agreement, all spun together in a web of equal strands all connecting with both parties.
In other words communication is an equal two-way process that requires everyone to participate equally in achieving an outcome that equally satisfies or caters for the needs of all concerned. I believe that there is a one to one relationship between talking and listening and any communication (outside of counselling perhaps) that is unequal in these aspects will become more unequal in other ways too over time. Let’s face it, few people are interested in being the listener all of the time and few are interested in being the sole talker either. I say few because I have actually met two people in my lifetime who could actually spend an entire evening talking, never once worrying about listening to anyone else. They were amazing individuals because they literally had the unusual and debatable skill of opening their mouth and not stopping for hours. From a professional point of view I found them fascinating, albeit tedious too after an hour or so of listening patiently. To this day I stand in awe of their ability to find so many different things to talk about and string them all together almost unnoticeable like a the merging in and out of two completely different pieces of music. Regardless of your viewpoint, that is an amazing skill.
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