I’m beginning to think that conversation is a dying art. The ability to create a sacred space around two people with the intent of respectful, clear communication is a rare thing these days.
I find it sad that in a era of instantaneous communication where we have access to vast audiences via technology, the majority of folks (me included) choose platforms to convey our messages that are one dimensional at best. Our audience is left to interpret our epistles with their eyes instead of their ears. In turn, the message may be filtered solely through the reactionary lens of their emotions leaving out the balancing effects of logic and intuition.
Viral videos, fake news, memes – all feed off this reactionary type of communication. So does the negative emotions of jealousy, envy, despair and fear. The current communication style being seen on social media sites leaves the reader feeling misunderstood, inadequate and truly unheard.
Even the positive messages out there, and there are a lot of them, can send a message of deficiency to the overwhelmed reader. How can I compete with such wisdom? What if I don’t measure up?
Recently, I have noticed a veil of malaise drift over the folks I communicate with on social media. Perhaps it just a symptom of the dark days of winter, but I suspect it is more of a fatigue from trying to obtain a level of competency, and perfection, they may feel others expect from them.
Why would they be feeling this way? Because on the internet, we usually see only the best efforts of others. Ones that are edited, filtered and polished up to a bright shine, before the post button is ever pushed. We can portray ourselves anyway we wish with the magic of technology. With the right words and graphics, we can show up as a person who is successful, resourceful and knowledgeable. Hell, with the right filters, we can even make ourselves look younger, healthier and more vibrant. All of which may be neither true or real. We are comparing ourselves to what we see, which are unrealistic standards at best.
So what’s the antidote. How do we balance the societal scales back to a more realistic portrayal of humanity?
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
If you work in an industry where communicating is a part of your job, it is wise to learn the value of the above quote. There is much to be mined from the art of listening because most of the information you receive when you do listen comes not from what is said, but more from how it is said.
The key to listening is to hear what the other person is really saying. Now I know that sounds fundamental but the next time you are in a conversation with someone, take notice of what you are actually doing as they are speaking. Are your listening to their words; the intonations, the inflections and tones? How is their body communicating, is it animated and congruent to the narration, or is it contradicting the story? Can you feel the energy in the words being said? How do they make you feel?
Are you allowing the person that is speaking to fully communicate to you with their words, emotions and body language or are you, half listening and instead applying most of your attention to what you plan to say in reply?
A good listener seeks first to understand what the other person is really saying before they formulate a response. To do this requires our full attention to the words that are being spoken, then a moment of pause in order to let the transmission sink in before a thoughtful reply is delivered with an intention that shows that we really are listening.
It is only when both parties are connecting in this way that soul deep conversations can be achieved. This level of communication is how we find true value and self worth in ourselves and develop our self confidence. But just as important, this is how we find true value and worth in others and built respect.
Oh to be understood. Sometimes, when our emotions and thoughts are all jumbled up, we don’t even understand ourselves. So the only way another person is going to cut through the jumble, is to pay attention and really listen. If they set their intention to understand what it is we are trying to say first, they will also help us sort out the tangle we’ve gotten ourselves into as well. This is the skill of a great communicator. They act as a mirror first so that we can see what we could not see for ourselves before they offer a resolution to the issue at hand.
Now imagine if we could communicate with such intention on social media. How amazing would that be to have such a vast group of human beings seeking first to understand by using the skill of really listening before posting replies that may come from a position of ignorance. We would be more apt to ask clarifying questions first. Ones that would be respectful so as not to offer misunderstood comments that might offend. How empowering would that be.
I think this is one of the reasons that video posts are becoming more and more popular. They are a visual form of communicating. We can see the subtle layers of the story in the gestures and cadence of the story teller. We can listen with all our senses and receive a richer understanding. There is less chance of any misunderstanding because we can interpret the nuances of the communication better than a flat, one dimensional posting of a few written words.
Listen up as I try to communicate clearly the message of this post. Seek to understand first, before you judge what another person is trying to say. Hear, and be heard, with positive intention whether online or face to face so you too can be understood without judgement.
To learn – listen for the right questions.
To understand – listen for the right answers.
Listening is a skill that needs to be practiced just like any other skill and yet it is also one of the foundations needed in learning all other skills. We need to first listen, so we can absorb what it is that we need to hear. Only then can we begin to understand and translate it into an opinion, belief or a practice worthy if the information offered.
Do you hear what I’m saying?