What is effective communication?
Every language we know of has its confines. One would think that such a thing as language, that is so universal, so every where, must be the same...even though it sounds different. That I will be able to say the same things in every language possible. What we might not know is, that not ever language is equally BIG...or competent...or equally expressive. Not every language consist of the same amount of words & expressions. There are sayings in some languages...ways of expressing feelings or communicating intent that are very different from one dialect to another. In some tongues it is just easier. Easier to either cause confusion & mistakes or easier to avoid them. Some languages are allot smaller with fewer words available to you. They use the same words over again & rely allot on context to create meaning. They also rely on tone of voice to create intent.
Then there is the variable factor of the people that either understand their native tongue properly or not. Most languages also develop their own acceptable slang for certain things. The last complication are people that like certain words & attach a meaning of their own to them other than what their dictionary might explain to be accurate. So here is where the dilemma starts...
We are not cross pollinating cultures here...so stick to your experience of where you grew up.
Can I Listen with understanding?
Already one can see the obstacles that we have to negotiate around when we ask this question. I can say yes. I can listen with understanding...but what I understand, might not be what the speaker intended to communicate. My understanding will be absolute & I have no reason to doubt what I hear...or do I? How can I be sure that WHAT I understand is the right thing that I'm supposed to understand? If you have children or work with children...I don't have to explain any more here!
So who can validate the message/info?
The most practical exercise in verbal communication is laughably simple. Before I respond to anything that I irrevocably believe I understand...I have to give the speaker the opportunity to validate my understanding. Why? Because If you don't...What am I responding to? What I heard vs what they actually meant by those words can be 2 separate things.
It looks like this:
You: "You say something"...
Me: "Ok...I hear you say.....is that right?"
You: "No...that's not what I mean" "let me try again" ......
Me: "Ok...I hear you say....."
You: Yes...that's what I mean.
When you are able to repeat the information or instruction back to the speaker in an accurate way...according to their INTENT...then I can respond, either in action to what you asked of me or in conversation to clarify something. I can activate my emotion more appropriately, instead of the relentless back and forth of useless emotions until you finally actually f@#$n understand...I'm sure that sounds familiar!!
Can I communicate intent?
Some people are good with words. In the descriptive meanings they hold. Good at putting things in order of importance & relevance. Some people are NO GOOD with any of the above. Some call them women...some call them men...some call them politicians & to understand their intent is a treasure hunt. To add to the carnival experience some people suffer from a condition called alexithymia...
(Alexithymia is a personal trait characterized by the sub-clinical inability to identify and describe emotions experienced by one's self or others. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating.) Now you might not actually have married your partner for their communication skills...or hired that employee for their ability to write poetry...there were maybe other more important traits to look for...but it still remains quite the roller coaster ride when ever you do have a disagreement.
Internal noise blocks my ears.
It is my opinion that this relentless back & forth of emotions & intentions I mentioned, is largely due to "internal noise". When my emotions & feelings are activated to something, your brain is now trying to do 3 things at the same time. You are feeling & thinking & still trying to listen! I have learnt to separate these 3 experiences by not allowing any internal noise to stand up...UNTIL I have allowed the speaker to validate the correct message. I buy myself some thinking time by saying "this is interesting" while I think about how I feel & how I want to respond. I might also want to buy time by saying "I don't know how I feel about this...let me think about it" when I'm aware that I might be a passenger to my own instinctive reactions.
Did you land your plane or just fly over the airport?
Some folks are famous for just flying their conviction, opinion or instruction over people...and not really caring if they successfully grounded their speaking in understanding. Remember one thing. You are either building or braking a relationship. You simply cannot do both at the same time. Your ability to listen critically & validate information might just be the difference between saving or drowning your interpersonal relations with people.
The 93% statistic
No eyes...no info! I need to see what your body is telling me that your words are not.
There are 43 muscles in your face. Biologically your brain is incapable of hiding how you feel about something. If you inhibit emotion, they seep through what is known as micro expressions. Micro expressions happens in fractions of a second & tell me everything your brain cannot hide. Emotion is displayed allot faster than what the Neo-cortex can hide. These reactions happen in the Amygdala. The "emotional brain". Responsible for fight or flight. It high-jacks all information way before your Neo-cortex knows what's going on. (Unless your Amygdala is deficient or you have been trained to suppress emotion.
The standing hypothesis for modern day communication is known as the 93% statistic where communication is divided into 3 elements. 55% of what you say lie in your body language, the way you stand, sit, touch yourself, what your hands & eyes are doing. 38% of what you say lie in your vocal cues...emotional expressions & tone of voice. And only 7% of what you say are your actual words...your language. It therefore makes no sense to have a conversation of importance without any eye contact. Because 93% of the information I need to understand intent do not lie in your words! I need to listen with my eyes.
No attention - No Understanding...
Out of all the possible human desires.... it is my opinion that there cannot be a stronger desire than that of being "understood". I have a stronger desire for some one to understand me than for some one to love me. I am never looking for some one to love me. I am always looking for some one to understand me.
Love is an extremely abstract thing that very few people can describe or explain or even say exactly how they want some one to love them. That possible"feeling" of love is equally elusive. It comes & goes...fades and reappears...sometimes it feels more like a decision than a feeling. It looks more like consistent reoccurring actions that you & I like, that earns the title "LOVE". To every person Love is a different thing. People express it & feel it & conceptualize it in very different ways. There are even different degrees of loving some one. Different levels & in different ways. From a friend to a brother to a lover to a relative to your kids..
But there is only one way of understanding some one. Completely with all your attention & effort... or not really...which just means not at all. We often like to think we "get" some one...but all you get is your own way of seeing it & not what THEY see. Understanding some one is exactly the same for every person. Some one "gets" you...or they just don't. You cant understand some one half way.
Being understood is not a feeling. In my opinion...it is the highest form of satisfaction, of validation...of being here. It means that whatever goes on your head has a place...has a voice..is real..is possible. There is no greater sense of satisfaction for me than when some one truly understands what I mean...what I say...or see what I see...and are equally able to appreciate something the same way...MY WAY.
Complements blow past me like a fart...I never know what to do with it...but when I hear some one describe me in an accurate way...I feel so alive...I feel "known". It is a very lonely place inside me. I live inside a world that no one around me can see & no one can hear. There are feelings, actions, thoughts, dialogues, fireworks & dreams...like a puppet show to a deaf audience. That small connection I feel with some one that say something about me like they have been watching my "inner movie" is the single most satisfying experience I have ever felt. Some one that has truly paid such close attention to the smallest details long enough to be able to fill in the blanks...the parts of ourselves we hide so completely, not only from every one around us but even from our selves...
Why would any one do that? Its quite simple & obvious. Behavior is quite predictable. People "do" the things that they themselves desire. They "do the things" that they long to be on the receiving end of...
If they like handing out presents...you will rock their world giving them one. If they constantly do things for others...they might feel their efforts have meaning when you do some thing in return. If they always listen...they would appreciate some one to listen to them. If they are always patient...they might feel valued if some one shows some tolerance for them. If they always clean things, they might feel respected if you clean some thing for them. This is the language of understanding. This is not a 'love -language"...I'm not trying to get the world to love me by doing the things I do...I hope some where, some one will just understand me!
You learn something about 'understanding' when you just pay attention to their behavior. Have you ever sat in a public place & watched...every person made an effort to look their best. Yet no one pays attention to that effort. They are all focused on them selves. They only look at their own reflection in the shop windows. I often wonder if you asked them on their way home...if they remembered any other persons outfit that impressed them, other than their own? Many years ago I was browsing around in a jewellery store. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a man standing in the doorway. As I'm about to exit the store, the man politely greeted & asked If any one had payed me a complement that day? I first looked around me...thinking that this is a very odd distraction. Not seeing any potential threats I stepped back...raised my hands gently under my quest (for a possible confrontation)...& said: "No...that is an unusual question". The man proceeded to complement details about myself that I never thought any one would ever notice...& even if they did they would likely never utter anything verbally.
As he finished, he just politely said to have a good day & left. Little did I know this person was standing in the door of the jeweler store waiting just for me. I was browsing around for quite some time. He had seen me in a previous store and followed me...to have a closer look. That day I decided that I would never keep any understanding of some one else to myself. I will never again be the judge on their behalf, if they are able to receive a complement or not, or if they could handle it. I will never again fail to say what I see in some one. I will let them be the judge of that verdict. But I will share...I will say...I will comment...I will add to the value that I see. I will listen with my eyes. I want to be an exceptional communicator.
I want to understand you...because maybe one day - you will understand.
Thanx for Listening.