It’s about relationships, respect and reciprocity. Not surprisingly, our busy lifestyles can sometimes make it hard to communicate well. We’ve put together four steps to better communication, to help ensure we hear each other properly, in the full sense of the word.
Our world is noisier than ever before. The abundance of media and entertainment technology around us, coupled with our culture of sound bytes and sensationalism, has made us all pretty impatient when it comes to the one-on-one.
Before you enter any important conversation, press pause on any distractions. If you need to, move to a quieter place, turn off your mobile phone, and take a moment to listen consciously. It’s harder than you think.
Sounds obvious, but listening is about more than hearing. It’s a mental process more than a physical one, and that means engaging your brain as much as your ears.
Before any important conversation, remind yourself to RASA. Namely, you should:
‘Receive’ (pay full attention to the other person),
‘Appreciate’ (respond with acknowledging sounds like ‘oh’ and ‘OK’),
‘Summarise’ (use the word ‘so’ to show you understand what’s being said) and
‘Ask’ (use questions to clarify you’ve understood their meaning before jumping in with your own response).
It’s an old cliché that 90% of communication is non-verbal, but in fact words might count for even less than we thought. The latest theories suggest that only 7% of communication relies on words, 38% on tone of voice and a massive 55% on body language.
Stay conscious of your stance, eye contact, personal space and hands when you’re engaged in conversation – if you’re standing far away with your arms crossed and eyes wandering, no quantity of excited words will convince your partner of your enthusiasm.
Equally, take a minute to deliberately assess the other person’s body language too. It may reveal more than you expect.
When we say we ‘build rapport’ with someone, we’re using a phrase with its origins in the French term ‘rapporter’, meaning ‘to physically bring [something] back’. Think of a game of soccer, with the ball passed back and forth between the players effortlessly. Only the ball is the topic of conversation, and the players, ideally, are on the same team.
Just like a championship athlete, you’ll need to be flexible enough to adjust your response to the other person’s behaviour, suiting your communication style to theirs. If your partner is a soft-spoken, reflective communicator, you shouldn’t expect a fast-paced debate or a stand-up comedy routine.
Of course, good communication isn’t as easy as ticking items off a list. Sometimes a set of tools like these can help us become more conscious of the habits that stand between us and clear, honest, fruitful conversation. In a world where these qualities are rarer than ever before, that’s certainly no small thing.