When attempting to have a conversation with your spouse, have you ever had feelings of not being heard or possibly misunderstood? Have you ever been in an argument and found yourself not even knowing what you are arguing about? This could actually be a common feeling for some people who don’t take the time to examine the skills needed to be a good listener and good communicator.
I’m sure at some point everyone has turned on the news and heard about some website or network that was getting shutdown by something called a denial of service or DoS attack over the internet? This is when a network is being bombarded with useless traffic by someone who has no intention of completing the conversation and renders it useless ~ sounds like some conversations I have had with some people in the past. After being in the IT world for over 20 years, one day I realized as a network engineer the similarities between computer communication and human communication. I even noticed a few things that we can learn about these similarities that can actually produce successful human communication.
Merriam-Webster defines the word communicate this way: to transmit information, thought, or feeling so that it is satisfactorily received or understood.
That definition could apply to all types of communication, verbal, non-verbal or otherwise. The technical example below illustrates this definition really well.
How communication works in technology is basically this:
- The entity initiating the communication sends their message, and awaits an acknowledgment to verify that the message was received.
- The entity receiving the communication receives the message, and sends out an acknowledgment. They also respond with their own message.
- The original transmitting entity receives the acknowledgment as well as the additional message. This establishes a successful connection.
What can people learn from this process? This all sounds pretty simple, one person communicates their message and the other person acknowledges it. After acknowledging what they have received, they communicate their own message. The process now repeats itself all over again. Everyone gets to express their ideas freely, and everyone feels heard in what they are saying ~ Communication 101. These network engineers who came up with this process are brilliant. Their marriages must be perfect ~ right?
That all sounds good in principle, but we also have to be good at BOTH communicating and listening. Below are some practical tips at acquiring the skills needed to become a good communicator/listener.
Becoming a Good Listener – Active Listening
Do be quiet. Shut your yap or you won’t hear what they have to say.
Do focus on the speaker, remove all distraction including your cell phone, and make eye contact with them. Put blinders on if you have to for those who are adult ADD. By focusing on the person talking to you and making eye contact, they will have a sense of being honored and respected. They will be more likely to hear what you have to say in response instead of wondering if they need to repeat themselves because you were off staring into space or more likely staring at your cell phone.
Do be patient and empathize with the speaker. Acknowledge them with a nod or genuine “uh-huh” to show them you are really interested in what they are saying.
Do try to understand the vision or idea they are trying to get across to you and when appropriate try to repeat back what they said (ie. “So, what you are saying to me is ___, is that right?)
Do try to pick up on the non-verbal communication. Because they say that over 90% percent of communication is non-verbal and this will provide great insight in what the speaker is saying.
Don’t talk yet. You will have your time to talk, now is your time to listen.
Don’t compare your perspective with their perspective, just listen. Comparison and crack kills…remember that.
Don’t just bide your time to get a word in edgewise. People will realize that you are only waiting for an opportunity to give your perspective and they won’t feel heard…wait and listen to their complete thought before speaking.
Don’t just listen to words as if pretending to listen, look for the meaning in what they are saying. Anyone can easily repeat back the last thing someone said. Even my grade school kids play that annoying game to antagonize their siblings.
Don’t let distractions like your cell phone get in the way of picking up on the non-verbal communication, this is actually very important in discerning exactly what the speaker is saying.
Becoming a Good Communicator
Do speak clearly and concisely. If you can’t do this, maybe you should some additional time thinking about what you are going to say just a little longer.
Do speak positively and with encouragement when talking with other people. No one likes to endure a negative rant. So, try to put the issue you are talking about in a positive light when you can…and I don’t mean, “I’m positive that is a stupid idea.”
Do be sincere and speak from the heart. Just be sure that what is in your heart is good…for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Do stay focused and related to the conversation you are currently speaking about. Sideshow conversations only confuse and distract you from communicating the message you intended to talk about in the first place.
Don’t be stressed out or over emotional when talking to someone especially about important issues. You really won’t be communicating what you actually want to say because everyone will be distracted by the emotion instead of the actual issue at hand.
Don’t exhibit negative body language or talk. Remember no one likes negative talk or threatening gestures either.
Don’t argue negatively or compare negatively the situation because people will only shut down and not listen to what you are saying. If you must disagree, do it with respect and have the facts to back up your claims so that they will respect your point of view as well.
Don’t be distracted by your cell phone or go down an unrelated “rabbit hole” when speaking to someone. This isn’t going to make anyone feel like the conversation was successful and probably make everyone feel like the distracted talk you just had was a waste of time.
By following these tips, you will gain favor with the person who is communicating with you and it will also encourage others to behave the same way with you so that your communication connection will be enhanced. Another less technical example was given by Ted Cunningham of Woodland Hills Family Church. He posted a great communication graphic that basically illustrates what I’m talking about:
Scriptures for Meditation
James 1:19 (NIV) “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”
Proverbs 4:23-24 (NIV) “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”