One of the fundamental skills we need to develop as social creatures are our Communication Skills. Many people think that communication is about speaking, while communication is a process between two parties, hence it includes both speaking and listening. In his ‘7 habits of highly effective people’, Stephen Covey introduced the 5th habit of “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” His habit was an eye opener, explaining that in order to have better conversations and relationships, we ought to listen first, understand, then express ourselves. I offer you 8 simple steps to become better communicators:
1- Listen first without interrupting
Attending a Leadership bootcamp for Covey in Egypt, he used ‘an Indian stick’ in a demo for his 5th habit. He passed the stick to the other person and made it clear that only the person with the stick is the one allowed to speak. He gave the stick to the other person to speak first.
2- Find an alternative for interruptions
Some people tend to interrupt fearing to forget what they want to say. If you face this challenge find an alternative to remember without interrupting the other person. Taking notes might be an option in case you find difficulty to remember.
3- Explain what you understood
When you receive the stick hold on and don’t dive into your side of the talk. Start first by repeating what you understood from the other person’s talk. This will make him/her feel heard and it will provide a chance to clarify any misunderstandings before moving to your side.
4- Speak and share your talk
How fantastic! According to Stephen Covey speaking is the 4th step in an effective communication. After making sure that you clearly understood the other person’s speech come your turn to speak. Make sure to hold the stick or the tool you will be using.
5- Check the understanding of the other person
When you’re done with your speech pass the stick to the other person and ask him/her to explain what he/she understood. Keep passing the stick till you both feel truly heard.
6- Compare the outcome of the communication process with your intention
Take few moments to reflect on what happened. Compare your aims from the conversation with the outcome. Consider the impact of this process on your relationship with the other person. How did it affect it?
7- Act based on the outcome
Decide on the actions you need to take. Will you need another ‘communication’ with the person to clarify things? Will you need to put some decisions into action? Identify the steps that need to be taken and work them out.
8- Pay attention to the unspoken
The process of ‘Verbal communication’ is an experience between human beings. It goes beyond the spoken words. Paying attention to the person’s tone of voice, breath, posture, pauses and energy level is as important as the spoken words themselves. Make sure to seek a deep understanding of the other person’s message. Be attentive to the unspoken. Be careful, don’t make assumptions. Always ask and check your understanding.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” Stephen Covey. Change your life; join the few who seeks to understand.