The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
~George Bernard Shaw
A quick search of the internet makes it evident how important people see communication in all aspects of life. When focusing on business training and leadership development, communication becomes even more of a focus, with masterminds, webinars, coaching, and team training all focused on developing the best ways to talk, dialogue, and discuss.
The Problem with Communication
Communication requires a speaker and a listener. The information must flow from the speaker to the listener, where the information is heard. Unfortunately, the physical act of hearing does not mean attempting to understand or recognize the speaker’s message.
Instead, what happens in many interactions, particularly on topics where people are emotionally involved, is the act of listening is seen as a way to create a rebuttal. People only listen until they hear a point they don’t like. Then, they disengage and begin to form their rebuttal or argument.
This leads to an incomplete understanding of what the speaker is trying to say. Immediately the roles reverse, with the listener then becoming the speaker and trying to convince the other of the lack of validity in their statement. They may also try to convince the other person or overwhelm them with data, opinions, or information, which only further distorts the communication.
These roles go back and forth during the interaction. Neither party truly understands the other person’s perspective nor hears the entire message. In some cases, if the listener believes they already know the information the speaker is attempting to share, he or she may simply go on to the next thing to do in their mind, completely tuning out of the conversation.
The solution to this communication gap or problem is to become a mindful communicator. Mindful communication means listening with an open mind or a beginner’s mindset to the information provided by the other person.
Imagine the stops existing except for the communication between you and the speaker. Take the time to listen to every word said and to attempt to understand the message. Be comfortable asking for more information to get a better picture of the view, opinion, or idea the speaker is trying to convey.
In addition to listening to what is being said, listen for what is not being said. Where do you see a mismatch between the spoken word and body language? What information do you need to have a full picture? What is the other person experiencing in sharing this information?
Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and getting as close as possible to understanding their perspective, ideas, and messages is the most effective way to become a better communicator. It allows you to advance the conversation and set a tone of collaboration and problem-solving rather than disagreement and arguments.