Are You an Effective Communicator?
by Shelly Aristizabal
What’s more frustrating than speaking without being heard? We’ve all been there before, confiding in a friend as she fondles her cell phone, pitching an idea to a co-worker as he interrupts with his own idea, telling your spouse about your day as his eyes glaze over.... apparently focusing on something much more important than you.
There is a difference between hearing and listening - listening is hard work, and it takes a great deal of concentration. No wonder our friends and family and co-workers can be lousy at it. But what about you -- are you a good listener?
You may be that colleague or spouse or friend who never really listens and not even know it! See if you have any of these poor listening habits below, or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a friend.
Sending one little text as your co-worker is talking sends an enormous message to her: You're not listening. And that hurts. Yes, perhaps you're hearing the other person, or you think you're getting the gist -- you're a multitasker after all! -- but are you really concentrating on what she said? Probably not. Focusing on a text message, or your email, or that dog over there or the shopping list you need to make is telling the speaker that those things are more important than what she is saying!
This bad habit is three things: Self explanatory, rude and a sign that you're not listening.
Topping the speaker's story.
Imagine you're excitedly telling a friend about a Washington, D.C., vacation you're planning, when he decides to cut in: "I lived there for three years and have toured the White House a couple dozen times, and really prefer the National Mall, though all the tourists typically opt for the Lincoln Memorial, which... blah, blah, blah" There's certainly nothing wrong with engaging in a conversation, but cutting into the speaker's story to talk about yourself is a sign you weren't digesting his or her message.
Someone with this habit thinks, "I'm listening, but only enough to find a problem and fix it for you!" Sometimes this person is so skilled in the habit that he or she will find problems that aren't even there. "Oh, the trip to Washington is this month? Why would you go there in that awful summer heat? And don't even think about cooling down in the air-conditioned museums, they're too crowded."
If you're the topic of discussion, you might hear criticism that may or may not be there. And so we get defensive. When we're defending, we're not listening.
Think about the last meeting, conversation or encounter you had. Did you display any of the above habits? Whether or not you did, know that everyone can improve his or her listening skills. And that's exactly what listening is: an important skill used in marriage, friendship, parenthood, management and just about every kind of relationship. Without listening skills, we're poor communicators. Think about the last miscommunication you had, or the last time something didn't go your way, and now think: How much of that had to do with not fully listening?
Here's how to practice becoming a better listener:
Break those habits.
Now that you're aware of poor listening habits, identify when you do them -- and stop. Even if you're mid-sentence, catch yourself. 'Here I go again, giving advice.’ or 'Here I go again, telling my story instead of listening to yours.' If you're really motivated to become a better listener, ask your friends to call you out when you're doing these habits.
Squarely face the speaker; Open up your posture by uncrossing your arms; Lean in; Make Eye contact; Relax.
Just like how good waiters repeat your order back to you, good listeners restate what they're hearing. While this repetition isn't necessary or efficient for every interaction ("I'm hearing that you think it's sunny out"), it's a useful tool for conversations in which messages could be mixed: "I'm hearing that you're upset I didn't go to your party," or "I'm hearing profits are up 4 percent, and you seem hopeful they'll continue rising."
Realize when you're not listening and fix it.
No one is a perfect listener. If you find your attention has drifted and you weren't actively listening, be honest with whoever is talking. Communicate that yes, you're interested, but that you got a bit off track, so please repeat that last part.
Remember, there is a very good reason we have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we talk to be an effective communicator!
Have you ever been so involved in doing something that you lost track of time?
Everything around you – from the beeping of the phone, to the people passing in the hallways – seem to fade away. You have laser focus on what you are doing, and you are so engaged that you might even miss lunch. You feel energized, even joyful, about what you are doing.
Most of us have had this experience at one time or another. Psychologists call this "flow." When it happens, we lose all track of time, and move forward on instinct, completely devoted to the task at hand.
Some call it mojo, athletes call it “in the zone” whatever you call it, it’s a very positive and results oriented place to be! Your level of flow is determined by the perceived level of difficulty of the task at hand and your skill levels to handle the task.
Different emotions come up too. For example, if the task isn't challenging and doesn't require a lot of skill, we're likely to feel apathy towards it. But facing a challenging task without the required skills could easily result in worry and anxiety.
To find a balance, and to perform at our best, we need a challenge that is significant and interesting, and we need well-developed skills, so that we're confident that we can meet the challenge. This moves us to a position where we can experience "flow" (being totally involved and engaged in the activity).
This state of flow is often observed in people who have mastered their business, art, sport, or hobby. They make whatever they're doing look easy, and they're totally engaged with it.
10 Components of Flow
How do you know when you're experiencing flow?
Have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve.
Be able to concentrate for long periods of time.
Find that time passes quickly.
Get direct and immediate feedback.
Experience levels of balance between ability levels and challenge of task.
Have a sense of personal control over the challenge.
Feel that the activity is intrinsically rewarding.
Lack awareness of bodily needs. (skip meals & sleep)
Lose the feeling of consciousness of one’s self.
Be completely absorbed in the activity.
Remember that all of these factors and experiences don't necessarily have to be in place for flow to happen. But you're likely to experience many of them when flow occurs.
Improve your chances of experiencing flow:
* Set goals. Learning to set effective goals can help you achieve the focus you need.
* Improve Concentration. Use strategies to eliminate distraction to create more productivity.
* Build Self-confidence. Implement skills to build up confidence.
* Get Feedback. Create relationships of trust that allow important feedback to improve.
Make your work more challenging. Improve your mindset to seek opportunities for growth.
Improve your skills. Identify the skills that you need to work on to be successful.
Mentor or Coach. Don’t do it alone. Seek out books and mentors to coach you.
Do what you love to do and you will never “work” a day in your life! Just go with the flow and know you can live the life of your dreams!
Community Commerce Leader, Author, Speaker, Nutrition & Fitness Coach
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