Communicating effectively

Author: Vasco Gaspar

Because we do not communicate with words only

We communicate in many different shapes and sizes – through gestures, glances, symbols, words, etc… Our society evolved because we were able to impart knowledge and create new one based on the existing one. Our education system is based on the assumption that information is being transmitted and, therefore, we learn to speak and to use language.
Currently, there are dozens of courses that offer to train people to communicate in a better way but are generally focused only on the emitter of information and little or no responsibilities are assigned to the receiver. Most of these trainings are associated with expressions such as “persuasion”, “sales”, etc… and few,  focus on teaching us how to listen.

Even in biological terms we have two ears and one mouth, but there are only few people who use these “devices” in that proportion. Most tend to talk the double amount of what they actually listen. Ever wondered why there are only few people who are concerned with hearing but so many who want to be heard? Have you ever spoken to someone who was just “faking” to listen, with the blank eyes, stare and distant, which revealed that he/she was thinking about some other thing than what is being said? And have you ever come across someone and had the impression that what he was saying did not fit very well with what trying to convey? This is related to the discrepancy between the verbal (or digital), dominated by the left side of our brain, and non-verbal language (or analog) decoded predominantly on the right side. Traditionally, women have a greater ability to repair these discrepancies, and are often said to be holding a 6th sense.

So, how to cultivate the power to listen carefully then? The first step is to be aware of our need to talk. Before doing so, ask yourself if what you are about to say:

-    Is really bringing value to the person or to the talk in general
-    Or is it just your need for attention, to want to “show up”
-    Or is it to cover the silence and the fear that it causes.

Then, comes the time to listen. This is the moment when you need to “dominate” the will to speak. And here, this does not mean just hearing the words that the other is saying. You also need to feel the tone of his voice, his gestures and his posture.

In addition to holding back your wish to speak and “hear” more than just the words that the other is telling us, it is also important to us to hear our own bodies. Did you know that we have in our intestines the equivalent amount of neurons that exist in the brain of a cat? And that our heart also has an independent network of neurons, sending information to the brain even more than they receive from it? It would be wise then, the next time when you feel some tightness in the stomach or a stab in the heart when you talk to someone, to “listen” to the advice of your body as it may be giving you some kind of clue about the precious message from the other person.

Other indicators are related to the movement of blood. Have you noticed that when you feel afraid your blood flow to the legs, as if to prepare the body for an escape? And that when you are angry the same blood flows into the hands, as if to prepare the body to fight? Notice where your blood flows the next time someone is trying to sell you something which you might not be interested in.

In short, if you are with someone and  really want to hear each other, then stop talking for a moment (even inside your brain), listen to his/her words, his/her tone of voice and to his/her body language and, above all, listen to YOURSELF. Be fully present to the other, giving him/her one of the most precious things that you have: your attention. Do not expect or look out for anything. Just listen, be totally present. This is how you will actually hear something new.

Remember that, many conflicts between parents and children mostly happen because of communication gap.  If you learn to hear “actually” what your kid wants to communicate to you, you will be able to understand your child’s needs in a better way and create a bond that can last forever.

Photo credits: http://morguefile.com/

Comments

  1. [...] Audience feedback is very important, but I think my colleague, Vasco Gaspar, who writes on Communicating Effectively in Bright Child, is right in that not everyone listens as well as they should; and that includes [...]

  2. Jamie Wolf said on August 3rd at 3:35 am:

    I applaud you for writing about communication from the viewpoint of listening. It is so difficult for me to watch parents in Walmart or the grocery store talk/yell non-stop at a small, crying child. Listening and non-verbal responses – like a hug, maybe – would be so much more effective than drowning out the crying with scolding. Listening is key in business, too. In everything. But if it can start in the home, the child grows up to be a more balanced adult and will carry the skill to others. Great article.

  3. Vasco Gaspar said on August 4th at 4:39 pm:

    Hi Jamie! 100% agree with your comment! Thank you for the feedback.

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