Practicing the art of imperfect communication

In my article, DISCover the 6 steps to better communication, published in ezine articles, I covered the six areas of knowing your default communication style, listening, clarity of speech, non-verbal, written and story telling.


I finished the articles by stating, “Communication has no quick fix, but does have predictable approaches that can minimize confusion and conflict, and ensure we get across as near to the message we are trying to convey as is possible.”


This seemed a good place to end the article at the time, but off course is only part of the story.


If we are able to convey our message as clearly as possible this will undoubtedly help. However, our message (what we intend) is still only part of the communication process. How we communicate this message, no matter how much we practice the steps as described in my last article, will never be perfect. We are all imperfect and can only ever convey imperfect messages.


Oh, now that is something some of us will not want to hear, or believe.


Practice does not make perfect. Practice can improve things, or make our oft times habits permanent (for better or worse).


What we need to understand is that our message (what we intend) and how we deliver this message, are only part of the equation.


The key thing to remember is that very rarely is communication about us giving a message and others receiving it, in a nice one way street. Communication is a sharing of messages back and forth. So not only giving out our message and someone receiving it, but also then receiving back their message. And then on top of that, understanding said imperfect messages.


Already we can see this communication business is getting messy.


The key is undoubtedly good listening, based on listening to understand, which required more than just the ears. I mentioned before the old saying “we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion”, but might have been better saying “we have two ears, two eyes and one mouth and should use them in that proportion”, ie, two-fifth hearing, two-fifth seeing, one-fifth talking.


How often do we communicate in this proportion? Come on – honestly!


Hearing is equivalent to listening at the surface level. This requires the least amount of effort and generally involves hearing what is said in an inattentive and habitual fashion. There is usually an element of inner thought (what will I say next? I agree/disagree with what they are saying. I really don’t like how they are communicating, so don’t even hear what they are communicating. Etc etc)


When we hear and see we are listening a bit more fully. This level of listening is usually associated with attentive listening. At this level we are able to ask better questions to help us understand better, and get closer to the intended message. We also tend to be less judgemental and less inward focussed, hearing less of our own inner chatter.


But there is another level of listening, often referred to as global listening (giving our full attention). This is where we hear, see, empathise and use our intuition to understand the other person as fully as possible. Noticing not just what they say, how they say it and their body language, but observing wider and deeper through the emotions they convey (see my article Where do emotions come from?) and everything around them and you, while suspending our judgements as much as possible.


Bringing it all together


Communication is an imperfect practice, practiced by imperfect people. However, that which comes natural to us, is that which we practice the most. If we want our communications to improve we must therefore practice improved communications, and the most immediate route for doing this is through practicing improved listening.


Shift from hearing to attentive listening, or shift from attentive listening to global listening. The results could astound you.



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