Isn’t it wonderful that we as humans – unlike animals – have the language to communicate? The German language is estimated to have between 300,000 and 500,000 words. And yet I experience time and again that communication just doesn’t work. Even if we speak the same language.
How often do we think we know how something was meant – react accordingly and then wonder about the astonished reaction of our counterpart?
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
It is normal that communication is not so easy despite the many words and common languages. Because we communicate not only words, but also “between the lines” wishes, expectations, experiences. We do not describe the world as it is, but as WE are, as WE see it. And how often do we not really listen, but start interpreting what is said and preparing a suitable answer while we are still “listening”?
I could mention numerous communication models here, but that is not my point. Rather, I have often asked myself recently how I can get better in understanding what is meant, in immersing myself better in the world of my counterpart, so to speak, in order to avoid misunderstandings and, above all, to really see the other person. And not my interpretation of him or her, but his or her true nature.
Try to understand before you are trying to be understood. – Steven Covey
I think the following aspects help with this:
- Wish to understand = be ready to let go of being right: In order to really engage with the other person’s perspective (which doesn’t mean I agree with it), I first need to listen to understand – not to refute or pick out a ‘point of attack’. To do this, I need genuine interest, the realisation that there is often no right or wrong – only different – and the ability to take myself back when listening.
- Communicate clearly: I can make it easier for others by not communicating in a “veiled” way – but by saying what I mean and meaning what I say. This may be a bit “unromantic” at times, but clearer. Nevertheless, it may not always be possible for reasons of politeness or respect. Therefore, another important quality is
- Clarify understanding by asking: very simply. How is it meant? Is it meant as I understood it?
- Judge according to actions: One of the most reliable ways to understand how something was meant is to look at how the other person actually behaves. Are the words followed by actions? Does the behaviour match the words? But also in relation to myself: do I live what I say?
Especially now at this time of year, when we are looking back, is perhaps a good time to check the following:
- Where did I succeed in communicating well with the people around me? Where less so?
- Do I tend to interpret, to believe what is meant – without checking it?
- Where could I perhaps pay more attention to actions instead of words? With others? But also with myself?
- And where would I like to put my words into action in the coming year?
May we – especially in these days of so much writing – succeed more often in personally exchanging with each other – with the will and the desire to really see each other – and to let words be followed by deeds!
Or, as a dear friend likes to say: Stop talking – act! 😉
That being said, take care!