Communication….the next frontier. This is the voyage to understand and improve communication……. .to seek strange new ideas and thoughts…to boldly go where no one has gone before!
Okay, I’ve been looking for a way to get my geek on and throw a Star Trek reference into a post since Leonard Nimoy died earlier this month. Man, I loved watching re-runs of Star Trek’s first generation in the 1970’s! Illogical? Yes, but that was part of the fun. I loved Mr. Spock’s highly used phrase: live long and prosper.
Communication, according to Webster’s dictionary, (hear me out!) is the “act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, and feelings to someone else.” I don’t mean to bring in dry information such as dictionary meanings to loose you so early on in this post; I do it purely to solidify the depth of how important communication is to our relationships.
When we think about it, relationships are built, grown, and die because of our communication. This is why we need to constantly be focused on how our communication lands on others. Last week we reviewed a paradigm shifting quote by John Wallen: “We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge others by their impact.” So how do we ensure our message is being received as intended and we are making the desired impact?
To effectively communicate we need to be self-aware of what we bring to each conversation. The more self-aware we are the more we are able to manage our own behavior and chosen words to convey the intended impact.
Being self-aware includes an understanding of our personality, personal values, habits, and emotional responses. A few of these we reviewed in previous posts yet we have not yet touched on the importance of our habits and emotions.
We all have habits that can either enhance or detract from how we communicate. Two ways to understand these are to: 1) be present – observe yourself during conversations and; 2) ask for feedback from those you know will be honest with you. For example you may have a habit of filling in gaps during a conversation with ah’s and um’s. Or you may have a habit of speaking so quickly others cannot keep up with you. Usually we don’t know this unless we observe our own interactions or someone is kind enough to make us aware.
By stepping back from our own experience and observing what is happening during a conversation we can objectively decide on how we will respond in the future with greater confidence and finesse.
Our emotions during communication can either get the best of us by overshadowing our intention or we avoid them to protect ourselves or we believe the other person. Either way we need to learn to use the messages our emotions are telling us to more effectively communicate.
“Our feelings are the primary motivating source in our lives. Without acknowledging our core feelings, we lose our sense of self.” – John Bradshaw
Our emotions are the driver of everything we do. Sometimes we are aware of our emotions and sometimes because of our upbringing and habits we are not. We need to learn to acknowledge our emotions and understand they are in charge of our actions. This is huge so let me say that again….our emotions are in charge of our actions. Like it or not, this is a scientific fact and the sooner we can get better at reading the messages the sooner we can discover how they can help us in our relationships.
Each emotion provides us valuable information on how our life is working. Noticing them can provide the direction we need to promote self-awareness. The better we are at recognizing them and learning to read the purpose of their message, the more authentic of a life we will live and the more true we will be to our genuine self.
Having access to our emotions puts us in charge of communication rather than our feelings. We can choose to express our emotions (or not) but we will benefit from noticing them and listening to their messages. If you have difficultly (like most of us!) try these practices to help get in touch:
- Understand what triggers your emotions. Notice what happened before you felt it. Make a list of these triggers to identify patterns. This will help you to manage the feeling in the future and to ensure your intended impact while communicating is clear.
- Ask a trusted person to share how they experience you and your emotions. Use this clarity to help you recognize and feel your emotions; again this supports enhancing your desired communication impact.
- If you are in a tense situation and cannot name a feeling, identify what you are feeling in your body. Focusing on that part of our body can be a powerful portal for identifying that emotion in the future.
- Share your emotional impact with others. For example: I felt disrespected when you didn’t call after not showing up for our lunch date. Was that your intention? This practice helps us to own and articulate our feelings and clarifies our needs to others. As a side note – this should be stated in an open and non-judgemental method.
Next week we’ll review another segment on keys to an effective relationship; The power of understanding another person’s perspective.
“Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are by nature too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can choose either to approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or to approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism and a great deal of candor.” – Tom Hanks