|How to speak so people want to listen.|
The right habits can transform your ability to communicate with other people and with yourself, and lead to deeper relationships and more success at work. Yet often we are held back by poor habits we don’t even realise we have. In this blog we’ll look at three of the most common limiting communication habits and how you can break them.
Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and systems thinker, wrote the book
The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication. In it, he set out five levels of learning or change. For this article we’re particularly interested in his level 2, establishing new behaviours through discontinuous change.
In simple terms, that means that if you just stop whatever you were doing, a new order or learning emerges that will be there already or will develop with the space available now the old behaviour has ended. Hopefully, you can appreciate the power and possibility of this level of change as we look into the three poor communication habits that could be holding you back.
Habit #1: Download listening
There’s listening and there’s listening. What seems one of the most straightforward and natural skills has many dimensions and levels.
So, someone is talking to you, perhaps someone very familiar you talk to regularly. As they talk to you, are you listening? Perhaps you’re courteously nodding and smiling while replaying an argument in your head from last night with your partner.
Does this sound familiar? How many times a day do you mime listening to someone while really listening to yourself? How many times a day do you think people are doing the exact same thing to you?
I call this download listening. We often start off interested, with genuine intentions to hear what our friend is saying – to be present with them in the moment. But then we distract ourselves with something we feel is more valuable to think about. We often do it when reading to. How many times have you read halfway down the page of a book only to realise you haven’t taken in a word? You’ve been thinking about something else, or your mind is still on something you read on the previous page.
There are many aspects or of communication that we can listen for. One of the fastest ways to break the habit of download listening is to try something called Factual Listening.
When someone is talking to you, try listening to the facts they’re telling you. Focus on picking out those facts as though they’re going to give you a test afterwards. This helps you to keep your attention and awareness on the speaker and their words. It can improve your listening ability by as much as 50%.
So why not give that a go today – maybe with someone you love?
Habit #2: Knowing and understanding
Paradoxically, knowing, acknowledgement and understanding are another poor listening habit.
You might find this surprising, because it can seem like these three things are actually what the person is looking for when speaking to you. Usually, they are not. Allow that to sink in for a minute.
People share and communicate with you on the basis that you don’t know something – that you don’t fully understand something. This gives them the opportunity to contribute and deepen their relationship with you.
So today, try the state of ‘know nothing’. In the presence of someone speaking, even if you think you do know what they’re telling you, act as if you don’t. This attitude of listening needs you to stop knowing and stop understanding. That way you’ll be present to the full offer of the communication and help build a deeper relationship with the speaker.
Habit #3: Undervaluing the person who’s speaking
People are important. Especially those we love and are close to us. We have best friends, people we work with regularly, and people that play important functions in the quality of our life experience.
An interesting phenomenon occurs over time with these people. We stop seeing them for who, what and how they are. We lose appreciation, and those people most important to us start to become objects of fading worth.
Day to day, this means we’re evaluating the person speaking – or, worse, no longer evaluating them at all. This can be a very destructive habit indeed.
Here’s a process to help you break this habit.
Firstly, think of someone deeply significant to you. It should be someone you admire – and they could be anyone alive or passed on. It could even be a personal hero you’ve never met – a sports star or a political hero. The Dalai Lama, let’s say. Or Buddha. Or maybe the late Muhammed Ali. Or it could be your grandmother.
If I were to offer you the opportunity to have a 20-minute conversation one-on-one with this person, I bet that it would be so significant to you, you would not objectify or evaluate them during the conversation would you? You would be present and attentive. Wouldn’t you?
My sense is that you would because of the value that you’d place upon that person that significant someone. Now, apply that value to everyone in your life – from those you love to those you work with. Think of them as having value – because they do. So try seeing everyone as important, and you will find it much harder to evaluate them. You’ll be much more likely to be truly present with them instead.
There you have it, the three poor communication habits that you can stop right now:
STOP download listening. Instead, start focusing on the facts and knowledge the speaker is imparting to you.
STOP understanding and acknowledging. Instead, try to adopt a “know-nothing” state: people aren’t looking for you to know already.
STOP evaluating people and taking them for granted. Instead, value everyone you meet no matter how often you meet them. Try to see them afresh, in the present moment. They’re only with you while they’re with you, so make the most of that.