Ok, it seems obvious that communication is a vital aspect to a relationship, but have you stopped and considered exactly what that means?
The most vital component to communication is listening. It is far more important than speaking clearly or meaning what is said. Although those too are important. We act upon what we hear, not what a person means. We understand meaning by word-object associations. These differ from person to person. For example, when I hear the word “dog” I immediately have a mental image of a beagle. My understanding of “dog” is based on a childhood growing up with that particular breed. Any other breeds, such as a dalmatian, are only understood in relation to what I know a beagle looks like. I compare a dalmatian to a beagle to understand the similarities and differences. Every word we use has these disparate associations from the speaker. These associations can cause us to misunderstand what the speaker means when we do actually listen.
This is why guys and girls often have problems communicating and listening. Both sexes have different word-meaning associations simply because of the different expectations society places upon them. Understanding the differences in word meanings with the person you communicate with is the vital role of a listener. Instead of being upset at something your friend says, stop and consider the possibility of a word-meaning confusion between both of you:
- Perhaps you said something the speaker misunderstood.
- Check you interpretation and imagine what the speaker may be trying to say.
- Ask questions and summarize. This helps the speaker know if you missed something or misunderstood.
Above all the job of the listeners is to listen.
- Be silent until the speaker is finished.
- Don’t assume you know what the speaking is saying.
- Consider what meaning the speaker is trying to convey.
- Stop what you are doing and listen. Distractions prevent good communication.
- Remain calm. Emotions get in the way of good listening.
- Only give advice when asked.
If someone says something hurtful, stop and consider why they are lashing out. Don’t simply retort. A loved one typically attacks those closest to them because they are suffering and need a safe outlet. Granted, this isn’t a good tactic. Listen to their grievance and take it to mind. They wouldn’t be expressing a grievance if didn’t feel wronged or hurt. The worst action is to lash out defensively with angry words of your own. It only adds to the suffering of the speaker. However, this isn’t the say you need to be an emotionless robot.
Interrupting someone is a sign of disrespect. You cannot know what they are going to say, no matter how long you have been together with them. Interruptions also can make the speaker feel unimportant. After all, you are belittling them but cutting off their thoughts with your own.
Good listening is a surprisingly effective medicine. Guys, sometimes she just wants you to listen. She doesn’t want advice. Girls, it’s hard for a guy to open up and share a concern; don’t belittle that concern. When you listen, listen. Don’t think about what you would do in the speaker’s situation or the game on television. Don’t try to formulate advice. While you are busy trying to help, you are not paying attention to what the speaker means.
Remember, what is heard is more important than what is said. Be sure to hear what the speaker truly means. Listening is a vital part of living well and living with compassion. Listening is one of Compassion’s most important tools.