If you would like to become a master communicator or if you are keen to hear more of what is ‘really being said’ or if you would like improve your ‘in-between-the-line’ reading skills, then this blog is for you!
It is a fact that most people only listen to respond, not necessarily to understand the individuals they discourse with. This is mostly due to not being fully present and involved in the exchange of information. Most people’s minds are ‘drifting’. Very few have a focused mind that will solely direct its attention to the action that is happening in the present moment. People are either thinking about events that have happened in the past or things that have not yet happened in the future. Isn’t that crazy behaviour? When you think about it…it is, as the only things we can truly absorb are the events that happen in the now.
In my opinion there are three major communication blocks and many more minor obstacles. But in order to keep it simple today, we will only look at the primary communication barriers:
Firstly, a lack of empathy within the communicator/ listener;
Secondly, a lack of awareness or presence while communicating;
Lastly, understanding where you stand as a communicator or knowing exactly who you are speaking to?
To address the first block we need to ask ourselves: How do we want to feel when we are in conversation with someone or a group of people?
Undoubtedly, everyone wants to feel valued, listened to and understood. Richard Branson once said: “Do you know how you can make people feel really valued? By giving them your undivided attention when they speak to you.”
I actually started applying this in my daily life and have done so for years now, as me too, I want to feel valued. As a result, the quality of my relationships has drastically improved. In addition, we never know what is going on in someone’s life at the moment a conversation takes place. Therefore, we should always be open to placing this conversation within a larger picture. This is called mindful living. We can do so by not being judgmental and just allowing the conversation to flow. People make assumptions all too often and way too quick. This prevents the essence of the message to get through and its real meaning is often missed.
Secondly, the absence of awareness/ mental presence of the speaker and/or listener is a second leading cause of communication breakdown.
Every interaction we have with another individual can teach us something and its true value often becomes evident at a much later time. By not listening purposefully, you deprive yourself from learning important life lessons. Moreover, only when people really listen to each other with the intention and willingness to decipher each other’s message-code, a deeper connection can be made. And after all, connection is the ultimate goal of communication, isn’t it?
Also, by taking an interest in who – as a person – you are speaking/listening to can make a gigantic difference in understanding their message. When we are talking to a child or to an adult, we use very different vocabulary. Sometimes it is necessary to simplify and in academic realms we use a more sophisticated lexicon. Nevertheless, for a message to be understood and for the purpose to connect with the people we communicate with, we have to adjust to each other and accommodate the variables and differences.
As a multilingual person, I have often seen people make fun of others that do not speak English fluently or speak with a heavy accent. Now, this says more about the person making fun than about the person trying to convey a message.
I always wonder how many different languages ‘the joker’ speaks apart from English. Before judging, think about the fact that the person with the accent speaks at least one more language if not many.
So perhaps instead of making fun of them, accommodate them by speaking clearly and at a slower pace so the conversation will flow.
And on a final note, you never know why this foreign person has migrated. They might come from a war-thorn country, be a refugee or simply in search of a better future for himself or herself. The fact that they are learning English in additional to their own language and perhaps other languages they already speak, makes a clear statement that they are willing to integrate and be part of a larger community. Unfortunately, I see so much ignorance and aggression towards foreigners who do their very best to learn, adjust and fit in. English just happens to be the dominant language that makes you part of a wider conversation to solve common problems.
In my opinion, we should embrace everyone who wants to be part of this ever expanding and multicultural society. Now we have gone full circle as we get back to first communication block, ‘lack of empathy’.
Remember, and really remember that some of us were born lucky (country, speaking the main world language) – although most don’t even realize that they had a head start – others had to work hard to belong and fit in.
But in the end, these are all life lessons we can learn on the way to accepting each other for who we are, no matter what language we speak or where we came from.