If you can’t communicate your ideas, thoughts, needs, and desires, then forget about anyone, except maybe your mother, taking you seriously. It’s really that simple. Effective communication, whether by speech, action, writing, or even respectful silence, will move others to embrace you and your point of view, or at least to understand why you hold it.
I’ve learned through hard experience that many in authority do not communicate well. They either rely on assistants to do that job, or they simply exert their will through coercion. These would not rise to the level of being true leaders.
Respected leaders at home, at work, and in the wider community promote respectful and effective communication. They listen before speaking, ask questions before jumping to judgment, and are generous with time and space in order to promote meaningful conversation. They are also careful to match their communication skills with a high level of emotional intelligence.
Mindful listening is a huge task and makes up at least 90% of authentic and effective communication. Responding makes up the other 10%. Simply reacting and not responding rationally does not work in the long term.
The word listen means ‘to obey.’ When I am listening attentively to the other, without rehearsing in my head how I want to respond, I am giving full attention, I am ‘obeying’ the importance of the other. I am also respecting personal boundaries, withholding interruptions, and being sensitive to personal beliefs, values, and principles that enter into the discussion.
Part of listening is also being aware of one’s own mind chatter. Such chatter may be driving the primitive fight or flight response (defensive arguing comes to mind). We can be so distracted that we simply stop listening and retreat into reaction.
Body language, tone of voice, and choice of words reveal the degree of respect we are projecting. For example, I’ve sometimes failed to filter my thoughts before they come out of my mouth. It’s a habit I continually work on. Also sounding rehearsed, scripted, officious, pompous, or slick can indicate a leader who is not being transparent, who has yet to open the door to mutual understanding.
A careful listener will also avoid asking a variety of: “What have you done for me lately?” Such a question is unfair even if you’re about to fire someone due to proven poor performance. It sets up an adversarial and defensive relationship, sabotages further communicating, and negates any positive attitude that may have existed.
If you expect to be viewed as a respected leader, whether a parent, partner, friend, or professional, working on communication skills, as you would any worthwhile skill, is a must. What is your greatest communication skill? Which is the one you’re going to begin working on today to make it better? Do you want to be a respected leader? Communication is the key.
© Copyright Michael Parise 2017
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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