The Deeper Purposes of Communication
The Deeper Purposes of Communication
Communication plays a major role in the depth of our Interpersonal Relationships. Good communication can give a shared meaning and a deeper connection to those around us. Dr. Sandy Shugart author of Leadership in the Crucible of Work explains why communication is so important both in our personal and work lives and reminds us of 12 skills that help us be better communicators.
"The question for me, as a leader, has been how to nurture an environment of communication at work that can lead to deeper connections among one another, the kinds of connections that move us to new levels of performance and sustain us in times of trial. The key to this work isn’t what we generally mean by communication. It isn’t so much in the information we broadcast to others, or even the symbols, stories, and meaning we attach to the information. The real key is in what we receive from one another, how we listen and are heard. Listening is our most vital faculty for this kind of communication, and this is especially true for leaders. We all know this at some level. We have all experienced others with a special gift for listening, those who are able to focus their entire attention on us, if even for a few moments, when we feel nothing is more important to them than what we have to say at that moment. This creates a connection like almost nothing else can. We are heard, and we know that we are heard.
My roommate in college was one of these people. He listened fully and with deep interest and empathy. Years later, we are still very good friends, and we can conjure up memories and even actual quotes of conversations that were important to us from decades ago. Our connection has endured and will endure almost anything, and when we are together now, the connection is instantaneous and we can pick up just where we left off, even after long passages of time. When we experience this in an associate, it is a delight; when we experience it in a leader, it is powerful.
Differences in our roles, layers of organizational bureaucracy, the infrequency of our conversations are all wiped away in a moment of real listening. It’s both engaging and liberating in a refreshing and arresting way. We find commonality of purpose and real power in being understood and accepted by the simple act of being heard."
12 Skills of Listening
Years ago, I made a commitment to myself to become a great listener, even though it wasn’t a natural gift I had developed from an early age. I worked at it, noticed the habits of those more advanced as listeners, and tried to cultivate them in myself. I even took a course in listening. You may have, too, when such things were more commonly taught. I learned, as you no doubt did, some useful principles and techniques:
•Be still and pay attention;
•Don’t think about your reply until you have fully heard and processed what the other is saying;
•Reflect back what you think you are hearing from the speaker in paraphrase and confirm that you got it right;
•Use open body posture, hands up and open, no crossed arms;
•Make and sustain eye contact, and for heaven’s sake don’t be looking at “the bird on my shoulder”;
•Ask leading questions and probe more deeply;
•Don’t feel the need to respond immediately, giving the impression that you’ve heard all this before and already have a dismissive answer;
•Thank the speaker for what she has shared with you;
•Then, and only then, introduce new information or an alternate view to the conversation, and do so with an attitude and tone of inquiry rather than advocacy;
•If the conversation needs a starter, begin with questions, real questions that matter, and be still long enough for the other to reflect and respond, even if the silence begins to get a little uncomfortable;
•Never flatter, since the act of listening itself, if it is genuine, is enough to reinforce the other to share, and flattery never feels true.