You decided you’d like to run the marathon know that will take training and practice. Or maybe you want to play the piano. Surely that will take lessons (or self-teaching) and lots of practice.
Interpersonal communication is no different. Yes, we “practice” communicating from the day we start to talk. But we fall into patterns based on “scripts” we learn from childhood. These patterns or scripts you have adopted may not be serving you well. If so, you can learn new ones.
New communication skills require practice, just as with any new skill.
If you’ve found that you are usually piping up with the solution to everyone’s problem or you’re “talking over” others in your group, you may want to practice listening.
Commit yourself to saying NOTHING at the next team meeting or the next time your colleague comes to tell you something. But also commit yourself to maintaining eye contact and acknowledging whoever is speaking with a nod or a blink of the eye to indicate that he or she has your complete attention.
See how it feels to remain silent. What happens when you don’t respond with words? Does your colleague go on and say more – perhaps something you would not have heard if you’d jumped in, as usual. Do you hear some ideas or opinions that you would have missed if you were only hearing your own words? Is your colleague surprised and wondering if something is wrong with you? Just say, “no” and go on listening.
How do you feel when there is a silence? Must you be the one to fill the void?
Watch this space next week for thoughts about learning beyond words.
If you can’t wait, read Communication Case Studies for guidelines and tips.
Do you agree that “communication works?” If so, spread the word.
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Signing off – Carolyn Shadle and John Meyer, PhDs, info@ICSWorkplaceCommunication.com