"That’s not what I said!”
“You are putting words in my mouth!”
“Look – I gine shut up cuz you not listening to me…”
I guess we have heard and said at least one of these at some point or another whilst trying to communicate to somebody about something, somewhere. But how does a cool conversation spiral out of control in a short period of time? When we communicate – or try to anyway – we want all the attention on us. We want to make sure that we are speaking clearly, that we are understood, that our language is transparent as possible.
Sorry not sorry – but it ain all about you!
"It's not about what you said, it's about what you didn't say"
Whilst it is understood that effective communication imparts the aforementioned things, we forget that in order to give information we must first receive it. To communicate, one must first shut up. Shut up and listen to those who are trying to communicate to us. Not because we have heard a segment of what they were saying and trail off into thinking of your own response. Usually that is what happens you know. Especially in heating arguments. We get so caught up about proving to be right, that we forget to be humble and allow the other person to open up to us to see where they are coming from.
But how does one become a good communicator anyway? Well it takes a few things actually and what I am going to suggest will not be the end all of it all. But they have been helping me tremendously these past few years.
Be An Engaged Listener:
When we speak we hardly take time to actually listen to what the other party is saying. We tend to wait for them to stop talking and continue where you left off. Being an engaged listener means to not only listen to their words, but you listen to their tone of voice, body language, etc. Your tone conveys emotion and things like text messaging for forum chats can at times be misleading in terms of providing the nonverbal cues behind the words being spoken. This is why sometimes when having conversations it is best to have them face to face.
"To speak, is to understand. To understand is to listen"
Try To Set Aside Judgement:
Now in addition to being a more effective listener, you should try your best not to allow any preconceived notions about your counterpart dissuade you from listening to any valid points they may be presenting. Let your maturity help guide your judgments away and focus on the topic at hand. You don’t have to like the other party or even agree with them on the stance taken within the discussion. Withhold blame and criticism in order to understand them as best as you can.
If you are feeling disconnected in the discussion or for whatever reason do not understand their point, you can reflect what has been said by paraphrasing:
“What I’m hearing is…” or “Is it that you are saying?...”
It is ok that you ask questions, “What do you mean when you say …?” etc.
In doing so, the other party realizes that you are trying to meet them halfway and are making the effort to understand where they are coming from.
"A lack of transparency causes assumptions. We must never assume anything!"
Sometimes a "communication referee" is best to mediate the discussion. A teacher, psychiatrist, counselor, or even a mentor. Who ever they are, they should be an outside person who has no particular investment to the discussion, who can guide the parties at hand to a safe space and a more amicable environment. They can reel you back in if it looks like emotions are getting the best of you and even set a time limit for each person to have their say.
Finally what I will suggest, is to always be respectful of another person's view. Don't be petty. We are all dynamic people with different philosophies in life. There are just going to be times that you will not agree or the other player will not get your point. Respectfully move on from that situation and remember to carry yourself in a professional manner if you do have to speak to that person again. Know what you have done your best to build a bridge and try not to beat yourself over it if the outcome is not what you have expected.
Photography by: D.J Simmons
of Dojangles Publishing