Ever been in a relationship, privately or at work, were you seemed to be stuck in a vicious circle of bad conversations?
Those kinds of talks were you can’t seem to make the other person understand what you’re saying. Or were you can’t possibly imagine why on earth it could ever be true what the other person’s saying.
I know for sure I have!
Let me make a bold statement about situations like that: if a relationship has troubles (and which relationship doesn’t have any troubles, right), these often arise from things that go wrong in the communication between the people involved.
Think about it for a minute: there might be topics involved (e.g. financial situation, the do’s and don’t in raising children, an upcoming presentation to a big client), but what makes all these things go really bad, is the way we talk about it. We use the wrong words or tone or we avoid talking about it all together – and then things get messy.
I can even make my statement a little bolder: if there are troubles in a relationship, these often stem from, or are worsened by, the fact that the people involved don’t listen in the right way.
I’m not suggesting that people aren’t listening. I know we all listen. But we don’t listen to the right things and we listen in a counterproductive way.
In this article I’m sharing with you the 3 communication tricks that will improve any conversation immediately.
And through that, they’ll improve relationships.
And, surprise, surprise: they all have to do with listening.
Change your mindset.
It has happened to my countless times: while I’m having a discussion with someone, and the other person is speaking, I’m already working on what I’m going to say next. While listening superficially and nodding my head at appropriate times, I’m actually focusing a lot of my brainpower to a clever response.
You might say that I’m ‘listening to reply’, instead of ‘listening to understand’.
If I would listen to understand, I wouldn’t have time to think about what would be my next move. That sounds scary right – because how would you know what to say, if you don’t think about it before hand?
But in fact, listening to really understand what the other person is trying to say to you will bring up many valuable responses, without you having to spend any energy ‘coming up’ with them.
Listen to what is not being said.
And really, I’m not saying you should work on being a psychic.
To listen to what is not being said, means you listen to the tone of voice and the specific words people uses and observe the gestures they make while speaking. This will provide you with information about the state someone is in and the intention with which he or she speaks. And even though that’s not part of the literal conversation, it does have a big influence on the outcome.
When you start to ‘hear’ even what is not literally said, you’ll gain a very valuable extra layer of information. You’ll know more then someone is explicitly sharing. This will give you an advantage that you can use to deepen the conversation and influence the outcome.
The way to do that is by saying something about it in a non-threatening way. This could be something like: ‘I see that you’re upset about this’. Or ‘From the way you’re speaking about this, I get the impression there’s more going on’.
And then wait for the other person to respond. An intervention like this pulls the conversation to a deeper level, helping you both to gain extra information about the way each of you sees the topic and the possible solutions.
Listen to your intuition.
You may think you’re not that intuitive. But let me assure you: you are.
Intuition is like a muscle and like muscles; you have to work it for it to grow strong. You do have intuition; you just haven’t been training ‘the muscle’.
Good news is that intuition never leaves you, and when you start working out, it’ll grow strong and useful.
When you start valuing your gut feeling during conversations by actually doing something with the information it provides you, it will continue to grow stronger and it’ll give you an ongoing stream of useful information.
You could say something like: ‘I’m uncomfortable with the solution you’re providing’, or: ‘I feel we’re not at the core of this topic yet. What else should we be discussing?’.
Also, you could decide to trust a positive or negative ‘feeling’ even though your rational analysis might point you in another direction.
These three ‘tricks’ have two things in common.
1) They only work if you do something with the information they provide you with.
Especially in the case of the latter two, this takes courage. For some reason, we’ve gotten used to only valuing what people literally say as relevant information. And whenever you step outside that expectation, it’s a little scary.
At first! Because as soon as you get over your fear of saying something that others will see as ‘strange’, you’ll see the amazingly positive effects it has on every conversation and relationship your in. I call this courageous communication, to honor that courageous first step.
2) All of these require presence.
And this is very, very important. Maybe it’s the most important aspect in effective communication.
They require for you to be present in the current moment and in the conversation. When you’re thinking of other things or when you quickly check your email under the table: you are not present and you’ll miss what’s really going on.
This will immediately impact your effectiveness and you’ll have a disadvantage when the other person is present and is aware of what’s actually going on.
So in order to stay in the forefront and improve your chances of getting what you want: stay present and listen!