It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you probably spend a tremendous amount of time talking. Most of us are pretty good at that form of communication. More important than talking though, is the time we should spend listening – and especially reading body language, gauging responses, and sorting through all of the outside forms of communication coming at us so that we can better understand others. To be a good communicator, we need to be present; we need to pay attention; we need to avoid distractions; we need to be engaged and aware of all the signs that allow us know if we are on the same level as those that we trying to interact with. Certainly, all of us can think of endless times that we should have listened better and paid better attention to the non-verbal signs coming at us. Too often, though, we hear what we want to hear, we miss non-verbal communication signs and we speak too quickly.
This we found me doing a lot of talking and listening – more than usual. I was a communicating machine. So I looked up “communication” and found myself hung up on one beautiful and simple definition – to make common. Communication is so often about just that – getting each party to find common the ideas and the thoughts behind a concept or position so that from that common ground, they can move forward together. This often comes from understanding that even in our differences, we can make common such things as respect, open mindedness and tolerance.
At work, our communication skills can determine such things as whether or not we fully understand the goals and expectations others have for us, whether or not we truly want to improve our performance through proper feedback and instruction, and whether or not we value what others are saying so that we forge stronger partnerships.
At home, being a good communicator shows those closest to you that you care about the things that are important to them and that you are open to their perspectives and not just your own. With your loved ones, “making common” – especially when it comes to your differences and varying opinions is the ultimate measure of respect and honor for each other.
So, whether you are interviewing a potential client about their retirement dreams, or helping a co-worker deal with a difficult issue, or spending time around the dinner table hearing how the day went for your family, be engaged. Be present. Pay attention. Focus on what the other person is saying (or trying to say) and listen well. As a result, your relationships will be immeasurably enhanced. Be a masterful communicator and go make common.
With that in mind, I offer a few movie quotes on the topic.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” – Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke
“90% of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth.” – Will Smith in Hitch
“I called her up and she gave me a bunch of crap…something about me not listening enough or something. I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.” – Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber
“Don’t understand me so fast.” – Yul Brenner in The Magnificent Seven