In a world where we talk more than we listen, it’s a gift when we can truly be heard. Let that sit with you for a minute. The average person speaks at about a rate of 150 words per minute (wpm) and can hear at a rate of 1 000 wpm but we know how we communicate goes far beyond what we say.
Imagine what gets lost in translation filtering, through our perceptions, judgements and assumptions. The art of communication can’t be discussed without including deep listening. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Challenging us to listen twice as much and twice as long to really hear others. There’s a difference between the two.
Let’s not leave out the heart because it’s with our hearts where we also hear in a way, except we call it feeling. We feel something when someone else speaks when we hear something that moves us or read something that touched us. It helps us hear others in a different way.
Our world is overstimulated in the digital age we’re living in. We’re being asked to slow down but are we slowing down to hear or slowing down to prevent burnout? The two are related. Part of why nature is often recommended as a source of healing and calm is because it’s quiet! It’s the place where you can go and hear the sound of your own voice.
When it comes to the online space, think about some of the guidelines you hear as it relates to content creation and social media.
“Keep your videos to 2 min. or less.”
“Written content should be short and sweet.”
“Visuals and graphics help grab the attention of your audience… longer.”
We are rushing onto the next, attention spans are short (or have become shorter) and apparently, no one has time to listen anymore or effectively communicate. Yet we can’t apply those same strategies when it comes to listening or communicating with people.
Our colleagues and peers.
Our friends and families.
And yes, even our leaders.
I spend a lot of time working on the art of communication with clients and it’s fundamental to the way they lead their organizations but more importantly, how they connect with others. Shifting the way they communicate can make all the difference to the quality of their working relationships.
Language and words have power. More than the average person realizes. What we say carries weight, holds energy, just as much as how it’s said when it’s said and yes, to who. Somehow we have different rules for how we communicate with different people, often preventing us from having the most important conversations in the workplace or those we work with.
Two things that should be kept in mind regardless of who you’re communicating with is:
Your intention behind the message
Is it kind?
Having an intention behind your message asks you to consider the why behind the conversation you’re planning to have, plus helps to put you in the mindset for how you want to enter the conversation. Most people want the best possible outcome for a conversation whether it’s difficult or not. Putting thought to a specific intent for that meeting can help you do that.
Our most difficult conversations can still hold kindness. Not always easy to manage when emotions are running high, yet it is possible when managed with care. The idea here is if your message is difficult but necessary, it’s likely worth having. Awareness is key to manage any emotional charge before having the conversation to ensure your message isn’t clouded with negativity and you can be kind.
Sometimes a choice in just a word or a short phrase can shift an entire conversation and give us far more information than we may have expected. It helps us communicate better. We have to be willing and interested in making that shift and like with all communication, tone matters and it’s a practice.
Here are just a few ways to bring more meaning to your conversations and shift the way you communicate.
“I understand, thank you for sharing…”
It’s simple, yes, I know, and you might be thinking you already say this, but telling someone you understand and thanking them, affirms you’re listening and offers an appreciation. For some more than others, it takes great courage to be vulnerable and share something personal with them. Thanking them at the end helps to pay gratitude to their sharing with you. Consider when someone is sharing a disappointment they experienced or something they’re upset about. Saying, “I understand, thank you for sharing,” can go a long way.
“Tell me more…”
Just reading this short phrase or sentence is inviting. Some of the feedback I’ve heard from leaders is that some of their direct reports don’t share much or often feel stuck on how to shift the conversation to create more depth. They ask questions or try and get them to share however they’re not open. One of the ways to invite more reflection, especially when you’re looking for deeper insights is to ask, “Tell me more.” Give people a safe space to talk and believe me, they’ll use it.
In action, “Sounds like you had a great experience with this customer, tell me more about that…”
“Can you help me understand…”
This is great for those times when you want to invite someone to share their perspective, particularly when you’re looking for additional clarity. It’s another way to help someone feel heard, offers a softer tone in place of asking with, “Why…” and opens space for dialogue to occur.
In action, “Can you help me understand your approach to the plan you’ve outlined for this project…”
“What do you need from me?”
We may think we know what someone needs, but sometimes, it’s not until we actually ask that we learn it may be different than what we thought. The question alone can give someone the feeling that they’re cared for. Plus, it gives the other person the opportunity to tell you what kind of support they need and/or want from you whether they know it or not. Simply asking the question shifts the conversation to give it more meaning and deepen trust and connection.
In action, “I know you mentioned feeling overwhelmed. What do you need from me?”
In this remote climate, we are living and working in, we’re working twice as hard to build trust, maintain connection and establish rapport. Whether it’s someone you work with or someone you love, shifting a word or two or using a new phrase completely, can bring more meaning to a conversation, help you communicate better, open up the gates to deeper dialogue and most importantly, allows others to feel heard.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
When it comes to communication, what have you done differently, if anything, to bring more meaning to your conversations?
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