Gail Solish asked:
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
~ Stephen Covey
Communication is the core of business and interpersonal relationships. Most people want positive interactions with others whether in business or their personal life. Some times the things you say or do contribute to the conversation going awry and lead to negative outcomes. The following are 5 pitfalls to avoid in your conversations.
Being unwilling to listen. If you are the type of person who constantly needs to be talking then you are not available to listen. Is what you have to say more important than the input of another person? Conversations are supposed to be a shared experience with each person having the opportunity to speak and then to listen. Speaking with someone who constantly needs to talk, works against the idea of having a collaborative dialogue and can turn out to be a frustrating experience. The fact is that listening is often a more important skill than talking. You can find out a great deal of information by keeping your ears open and saying nothing.
Assuming you know exactly what the other person is going to say. When you believe that you know exactly what another person is going to say, then you are generally not paying attention to what they are saying. You will pretend that you are listening, but you will be responding as if they have said something which in fact they didn’t. The danger with assumptions is that your reaction becomes automatic which leads to miscommunication and misunderstandings. Prospective business deals will not go well if you operate from a level of assumptions.
Being condescending and judgmental in your conversations. If you believe you are smarter or better than those to whom you are speaking, then your conversations are doomed. We have all read stories about how people spoke to their servants or slaves. Their conversations conveyed a lack of respect, a disinterest in them. Take the time to observe children or teens at school or a mall and you may hear them making judgmental comments of others. If you come across as being superior then you will generally find that people are not responsive. It is important to listen to others ideas and thoughts without judgment. This does not mean you have to agree with them, but rather that you accept what they are saying without putting them down.
Insensitivity to facial expressions, tone of voice and body posture. If you are oblivious to the non verbal messages that others convey during conversations then you might be misunderstanding what is going on. Ignoring this is another way of not listening, not taking the time to understand others. Many people say one thing but their tone or posture is saying something quite different. It is important to be tuned in to these nuances because it can change the outcome of a conversation.
Interrupting and talking over others. If you are constantly interrupting people when they are speaking, you are indicating that what they have to say is not very valuable. I once observed a group of managers who were engaged in a team building exercise. Their task was to create a way to move a series of logs from point A to point B without dropping them and using each only once. There were two individuals who kept interrupting and cutting off the conversation so they could be heard. The outcome was that several other people stopped trying to talk and it no longer was a team effort.
Ideally you want to be involved in conversations which create positive interactions and communication. Being willing to listen, suspending your assumptions, not being judgmental, having an understanding of non-verbal communication and allowing others to speak without continuous interruptions shows your ability to engage in compelling conversations. Remember “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
Copyright 2008, Gail Solish.