“Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously said. Do you blame others when you experience communication problems, when your message is not understood?
“He didn’t understand, but I think I was being very clear!” “How many times do I have to tell him the same thing?” These are examples of blaming another in order to justify the communication problems we encounter in everyday life.
Yet the basic element of good communication is how we convey the message. We can’t control others, so when it comes to being understood we only have control over one thing: how we deliver a message. You must speak clearly, and with impact.
Communication Problems: A Social Evil
Let’s get right to the point: we communicate poorly. Neighbours, colleagues, friends, spouse, you. In short, society is suffering from a syndrome that has increased with the proliferation of communication channels and mass information.
It is therefore hardly surprising that communication problems are the source of many evils: marital problems, professional discord, conflicts with family, friends and loved ones. Bad communication creates victims. Lots of them.
Perhaps Werber best summed up the miasma of communications: “Between what I think, what I want to say, what I believe I say, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe to hear, what you hear, what you want to understand, what you think you understand, what you understand…There are ten possibilities that we might have some problem communicating. But let’s try anyway.”
There is an ocean-sized amount of interpretations and perceptions that can distort the message, and all of these distance us from good communications.
Communicating Well is an Art to Master
Fortunately, mastering the art of communication is within reach of all of us, given a bit of awareness, introspection, altruism and practice. Lots of practice!
To develop your ability to communicate with impact and improve they key relationships in your life, follow these tips.
- Your voice: a powerful communications tool
Your voice is a powerful tool in delivering your messages. Be aware of and play with the tone, volume, flow and rhythm of your voice, and watch for changed reactions from your audience. Adjust these voice characteristics as you practice. With a lower voice and a controlled speaking pace, you’ll increase the likelihood of your message being understood.
- Communicating to convince others
Good communicators are able to persuade others (after all, most people have a goal in mind when they speak). They have developed their sensory acuity; that is to say, they are able to detect clues about whether they are being understood or not. Be alert, listen carefully to your interlocutor, and pay particular attention to filters – selection, distortion and generalization – and decode his body language. If you adapt based on these kinds of clues, the current of the conversation will flow much better.
- Put aside preconceived notions and beliefs
Have you ever decided you didn’t like someone without them having uttered even a single word? Most of us make judgements based on other factors, including a lot of memories and past experiences that created ingrained beliefs. Watch out, though, these anchors of the past can hamper communication. After all, the past is no guarantee of the future.
- Develop your ability to listen and empathize
Often, when we interact with others, we are not listening. Rather, we are focusing on preparing our response or we fantasize, lost in our thoughts. Tell yourself that to be interesting, you must first be interested. Listen carefully to the other person, be aware of what you have and will say, and show empathy. These are the keys to successful communication.
- Assertiveness and emotional intelligence are your allies
People act for two main reasons: to avoid losing something or to avoid harm (and by consequence, to win). It’s like the survival instinct takes over in our interpersonal relationships. That to avoid either rejection or adversity our limbic brain takes control, obstructing any communication that would be a threat. By developing our emotional intelligence and our assertiveness we are best able to express disagreement without attacking the other, and this leads to better communication.
- Be real when communicating
Eliminate smoke screens or masks behind which you may be hiding. To communicate without creating relative superiority or inferiority, your best ally is authenticity. Why bother pretending to be someone else? You are who you are, and you should be proud of it while still showing humility. Remember: you are not better than anyone else and no one is better than you.
Stop for a moment, do some soul searching and then ask yourself the question, is hell still other people? If you put these tips into practice you’ll just how far your relationships will quickly grow –whether at work or at home.
There is a good communicator in you; it’s time to let him loose!