The health of our relationships is equal to our willingness to engage in honest conversation
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Many people believe that talking to someone is communicating. But talking isn’t communicating unless both parties bring an equal amount to the table. All healthy communication must be driven by a goal.
At a time in history where deceitfulness lives on every corner, mature conversation has become an art within itself. Most often, the main objective that people have when engaging in conversation with others, is getting into agreement with them as quickly as possible. This will often demonstrate deceitfulness at its best.
The problems come, however, when someone comes along who is secure in who they are and is more committed to learning someone’s truth opposed to being pleased.
The priority of agreement is that two people can’t be themselves (and honest with each other) in the context of a conversation or interaction. There can’t be two different people in a conversation—there can only be one person with one over-riding perspective.
The longer that one party refuses to acknowledge or agree with the other, the more pressure and anxiety will enter the communication. Before long, the conversation becomes a battle over which person is ‘getting it right’, which person is ‘getting it wrong’, who has the right answer, or who has come to the correct conclusion.
The #1 priority for individuals who get involved in conversations like this, isn’t respecting the person (or the other person’s perspective), but it is merely about ‘being right’. This is a counter-productive approach to take towards any communication or verbal interaction.
Those who find themselves ‘needing to be right’ haven’t yet matured to a level of life where they appreciate how different people have different life perspectives. And this is genuinely OK!
Men and women who refuse to mature in life, also refuse to develop conversationally. Those who refuse to develop conversationally, are often the guilty ones for introducing ‘conversation killers’.
A conversation killer is a segment of conversation that people use to dismiss the thoughts, feelings, or needs of others as irrelevant (especially when the other persons world view is contrasting to their own.)
Conversation killers are little behaviours which irritate people to the extent that they want to end the conversation abruptly.
We are all (often unknowingly guilty) of having at least one conversation killer in our communication toolkit.
Unless your conversation ‘partner’ is a close friend or family member, most people don’t want to know about your latest surgeries, your ex-partner, or current financial dilemmas.
Baring your soul to new people you meet, workplace peers or social acquaintances might give you some short-term relief, but long-term, you might fall victim to vicious gossip, social rejection or even lawsuits! At the least, you’ll be a primary cause of other people’s boredom.
Likewise, other people do not want to give you the details of their medical diagnosis, their latest work appraisal, or anything to do with their finances. The main reason for this is that no-one else would ever be interested in this kind of ‘stuff’.
And if you were to stumble upon someone who seemed as though they were, they’d most likely be a passive communicator, and too scared to tell you how bored they were. So just don’t go there!
Healthy communication is the glue that binds people together. Don’t let situations like this arise when other people have the opportunity to discredit or dismiss you, only because you told them too much (or too little).
If your goal in communication is to keep two mature and empowered people connected in conversation, the first goal we have must be to understand the other person. This goal can only be achieved when one person asks another a question (or series of questions) that they genuinely want to know the answers to.
If keeping a strong connection is the priority for two people in a conversation, then the end goal of the communication could never be agreement. Agreement requires passivity (passive interaction) and falsehood.
In healthy relationships, people don’t always see eye to eye, because we all views situations (and circumstances) from contrasting perspectives.
If two mature people want to engage in thoughtful and engaging conversation, the first goal for both parties must be to respect, honour and understand the other.
The person whose goal is to respect and understand the other is going to have an entirely differing set of results from the person whose goal was to get into agreement. Making the goal of understanding a priority in your conversations will help you to build deeper levels of intimacy and trust in all your most valued relationships.
Most times, we try to understand other people by relating their story to similar ones of our own.
If this is an approach that you’ve ever taken, guess what, relating to your life experiences is not a good start for understanding someone else. Relating someone else’s story to your own in only helpful if your end goal is insecure comparison or self-righteous judgement. Truthbomb!
If we want to sharpen our ability to understand others, it’s crucial that we learn to listen more attentively because believe it or not, there are five types of listening:
1) Ignoring: When we’re not listening at all.
2) Pretending: When we’re trying to show someone that we’re interested, but we aren’t!
3) Selective listening: When we only hear what we expect to hear.
4) Attentive listening: When we pay close attention to what someone is saying to us.
5) Empathic listening: When we focus on listening to what someone else is trying to say to us.
Empathic listening isn’t about agreeing with another or showing sympathy. Empathy is more about understanding the core message that someone is trying to convey. The best way to listen is empathically.
For example, any good salesperson will know the needs of his customer base. He’ll assess his product range to decide how they will best serve the needs of his clients. He wants to know if he can offer a practical solution to his client’s needs and preferences.
Understanding people is of fundamental importance if we want to connect with those that we know in a more meaningful way than what we have done in the past.
Mature communicators aren’t afraid of being told the truth. In fact, they love the truth! Mature communicators also are not scared to show the other person what is happening inside them, or hear what is going on inside of someone else.
So, to summarise this section, in your communications and interactions with other people, pursue understanding before all other things. They will even respect you for it!
Q) When communicating with others, are you more inclined to make quick assumptions about what people mean, or do you take the time to ASK them what they mean?
(If you’re unsure, think about how often people come to you for advice or guidance – if people don’t respect your communication style, they’ll be unlikely to come to you for help!) – Fear not … help is at hand!
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