I used to sell a training course on communication. The course was literally world famous and is still taken by thousands and thousands of people each year all over the world. Most of the people who sign up for the course claim to want to become better communicators but what they really want is to be better speakers.
There is a big difference between being a better speaker and a better communicator. They learn the difference in the very first week of that 12 week class. They discover that there are two parts to communication. Talking, which is what they signed up to learn, and listening, which they think they are already good at.
The best communicators understand the difference between a dialogue and a monologue. They know that when they listen they learn. They linger on the words of the person speaking until they are certain that they understand their intent.
The best communicators listen more than they talk. They know that saying something is no guarantee that it was heard. So they ask checking questions to ensure the person they are communicating with both heard and understood what was said.
Great communicators don’t talk to another person, they talk with them. The difference in word choice and tone of voice allows for the possibility of real communication to take place.
When I hear someone say that they learn a lot by talking to other people I immediately question (to myself) their communication skills. That’s because no one learns anything by talking. When we talk we are repeating what we already know, or think we know. It is when we stop talking to listen that we actually learn. When I hear someone say they learn a lot by listening to other people that’s when I know I’m talking with a good communicator.
Here’s one surefire way you can be a better communicator this very day… put down the darn phone. I know it’s called a smart phone but if it was really smart it would shut itself off when it detected another life form within 3 feet of you.
The number one cause of poor communication is distraction. The biggest distraction most of us deal with day in and day out is the hunk of electronics almost permanently attached to our hands.
You cannot text and listen. You cannot watch videos and truly listen to another person. You can’t play whatever game you’re currently fascinated with and give another person’s words the attention they deserve.
You cannot communicate if you’re not listening. Listening is the most important part of communication. Listening is the key that unlocks the words you need to use to deliver your message in a way that will be heard. Sometimes listening to another person speak is all you need to do to make a significant difference in their life.
When you become a better listener you become a better person. You become better informed. You become a better friend, spouse and parent.
You can be better in all those areas by making a decision to talk less and listen more. You may even discover that when you listen with complete attention you actually have nothing meaningful to add to the conversation. That’s when you know you’re truly a great communicator.