We have now looked at what Communication is and the ways in which we do it. This week we will explore a few key ways that will help us do it better.
Why is Improved Communication Important?
Have you ever thought long and hard about an upcoming meeting with someone, maybe a work colleague, maybe a Boss, maybe a loved one? You’ve rehearsed your pitch a thousand times over in your own mind and you are convinced that the meeting will be a great success for all concerned. This could be the turning point for the relationship to kick on and go forward, you’re excited about the future, only to be disappointed because you never really clicked, maybe they just didn’t get where you are coming from, maybe you didn’t get where they are coming from? Regardless of the reasons, for which there are probably many, the relationship is not in the shape that would be most beneficial for all concerned, WHY, because we failed to communicate as effectively as we could have.
What Will Improved Communication Bring Us?
In order for us to answer this question I feel we need to ask, what is it we are looking for in our communication? What do we want to feel? What do we want to hear? If we established a criteria or a strategy for assessing the value and results from our meetings then we will be in a position to fully assess and respect the results. This will allow us to be critically reflective, whilst at the same time respecting the results for what they are, if something does not go according to our expectations then take the learnings and move on. Focus on what it is that you want for the now and subsequently the future, remember, “you get what you focus on”.
When we have recognised exactly what it is we desire then we can focus on what we need to do to achieve it whilst at the same time ensuring a win/win for all involved. If we focus on the Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) presupposition that “the meaning of your communication is the response you get”, it may lead us to the conclusion we are totally responsible for all our outcomes. I often ask the question, if you had to split up, percentage wise, where the responsibility lies between you and another for the Communication, the answer I often receive is 50/50. It is true, both parties have a responsibility to make something work, but for what purpose would you be prepared to give away 50% of your chance to guarantee your success? I work on the belief that I am 100% responsible for my part in any meeting, therefore, if I do whatever I can, or are prepared to do, then I am increasing my chances of success considerably.
Five Essential Keys To Improving Communication
Milton Erickson, a renowned and globally respected hypnotherapist once said ‘Anything is possible in the presence of a good rapport.” Rapport is a process. It can be achieved one to one, one to many or indeed many to many. It is the mutual understanding, respect and trust that develops in some relationships. With Rapport, trust can be fully established and Communication fully fulfilled.
Next time you are in a room with group of people look for these indicators of Rapport. You will notice that there are certain people that will behave like other people, they will copy and imitate the actions of each other.
Non verbally their posture will look very similar, the angle of their spine may take the same shape. Their legs or arms may be crossed and their movements, facial expressions and gestures synced. The rate and depth of their breathing also matches up.
Verbally they use the same words or phrases to describe similar situations. The speed and tone of their voice sounds strangely alike and their volume may get louder or quieter together.
If this is a naturally occurring process, then we can use this to gain Rapport by doing it with purpose, why not try it and see how you get on?
You will know you have Rapport because you’ll feel it, you’ll just know. You’ll notice that you are either naturally falling into line with the other person or you may be purposefully able to lead the other person. You may notice or feel that skin colour has altered and you may have someone who you hardly know insist that they know you or be searching for all of the possible places you have met before. You may find people want to tell you personal things and then be surprised at themselves for doing it!
Appreciate and Respect Their Model of the World
We all see things through our own eyes, hear things with our own hears, touch and feel things with our own body and the feelings we get belong to us and us alone. When we have an external experience we filter this information in a way that is totally unique to us, talk to ourselves in a language and voice that is totally unique to us and so therefore will experience all things in a totally unique way, it may have similarities to the experience of someone else, but, it is unique to us. To this end, if we can appreciate and respect the views, opinions and wishes of others, we are more likely to be able to gain Rapport with them and so increase the levels of Communication we have with them. This does not necessarily mean we have to agree with their Model of the World, just respect it.
Say It the Way You Want It
Whilst walking my dog the other day I came across a man who looked to be struggling with his dog. I have a Red Fox Labrador called Basil who is the softest, friendliest dog in the world, not quite sure how I’d prove that, so that is pure opinion! The man had a white Scotty Dog, now I know that Basil will always give this breed a wide berth following a bad experience with two of them in his younger days. As I passed the man, who by now had his dog half in his arms with its front paws still on the ground, muttered and mumbled something to me about keeping my dog under control, I gave Basil a whistle and as I suspected he would, he ran past the struggling pair giving them a wide berth, came to my side and expected a treat for being the good boy as he always is, yeh likely story! It was then that I thought about the situation, was the man worried about Basil or was he concerned that his dog, who was very vocal and didn’t appear too pleased to see Basil, would react in a way that was less than friendly? I don’t know the answer to this question, neither do I know what the man was really grumbling about, but how could I, he never actually told me, nor did he say what he would have liked me to do to make his situation better and maybe mine too. All too often it is expected that someone else will automatically be able to know what it is we want from them without actually asking or telling. It is of course important to be conscious of the way we ask or tell!
Ask Questions to Gain Understanding
Given the above scenario how could I have changed the situation to make it better for this man and his dog and maybe myself too. I clearly recognised that he was having difficulties at some level and I was aware that he was grumbling and muttering about out of control dogs and I then assumed he meant me and my dog. I made the conscious choice to ignore him, allowed an instant opinion to form and walked on. What if I had stopped and asked, “are you OK there, you appear to be struggling a little, Basil is friendly he won’t come anywhere near you, is your dog friendly?” By not asking the question at that point, I gave 50% of my chance to make a difference away. All this to a man who’d I never met before and have never met since! I may have helped this man out by informing him of Basil’s friendly nature, it may have prompted him to ask me to put Basil on the lead just to walk past his unfriendly dog, it may be that his dog was not unfriendly at all and the two of them could have played nicely for ten minutes whilst I chatted to a man I’d never met before and we became best friends for life! He may have been an HR Director for a large firm who was looking for training in people and relationship skills for his whole work force and this was an opportunity for the both of us. Probably, you might say highly unlikely scenarios, but, we will never know because I didn’t ask the questions to gain a full understanding of the situation. This is a story that has no long term consequence, if I see the man again I will probably smile and say good morning, more than likely without even recognising him, but, how many times have you assumed without asking the questions that will deliver a better understanding of the whole picture?
A year ago I attended the NLP Conference in London. Michael Neill, an Internationally renowned Transformative coach and the author of many books including “The Inside Out Revolution” a book I would highly recommend, spoke at the Conference. Michael spoke of Listening and used a 5 ways to listen model to describe how we do it. I would like to share this with you today, of course it now has my slant on it and I hope Michael would agree with my understanding of his concept.
Listen To Affirm – If we are doing this are we really listening or are we focusing on what we want to hear to be able to agree with the other person. This could mean that we miss vital information and so the full meaning of what we are being told. This affirmation we afford could be enough to allow the other person to remain in their stuck state!
Listen to Argue – Here we are again focused on the points that we want to hear and so may never get the full story. How useful will listening to argue be for building a long lasting relationship based on trust and mutual respect?
Listen to Understand – To gain cognitive understanding of what is being said can definitely get in the way of listening. If we can think back to filtering information that we take in and forming our own understanding based on our own filters, how much can we really understand if all we are trying to do is make sense and understand from what is being said alone?
Listen to solve, fix, make better or improve – In this scenario we are so keen to help and fix things for the other person that we fail to hear most of what is exactly being said.
JUST LISTEN – Be a rock with ears, offer no opinion, let the words flood into your unconscious. Understand that you don’t have to understand, you will when the time comes. Let them speak, they have all the resources they need to solve their own issues and by JUST LISTENING you will allow them to access those resources and actually hear what is being said at all levels.
Over the past three weeks we have looked at what is Communication and how we do it? How we communicate in person through our verbal and non verbal channels? Finally, how it is important to ensure we get the message over in the way in which we intend it. If you explore and practice the five tips I have given you today your ability to Communicate will improve. You could conduct your own case studies and draw your own conclusions on what is and is not good Communication and how to gain the level of Communication you desire and are prepared to enter into at any give time. Comment here if you would like to explore this topic further!