I’ve already discussed attitude and balance. It’s time to take a look at one of the most important aspects of any relationship: communication. This one, again, is probably not a surprise to anyone. This really is a reiteration of how important it is to communicate.
It doesn’t matter which relationship you are thinking about. If you can’t effectively communicate with the people in your life, the relationships will suffer and make your life harder than it needs to be. Lack of communication can create arguments at home, keep you from getting a promotion, or create misunderstandings that prevent you from accomplishing your goals. But I want to talk about a different aspect of communication that seems to be forgotten: listening.
Communication is a not all about people talking. Being an active listener is extremely important. As an active listener, you aren’t predicting what others are going to say in the middle of the conversation. You’re not thinking about your own response to their words. Active listening is very difficult. Our minds work faster than the words coming out of someone’s mouth, so we all have a tendency to think ahead, trying to predict what the person is going to say next or think about what we’re going to say next. When we do this, we miss really important non-verbal cues within the speech. When we are busy thinking instead of listening, we miss the person’s expressions, intonation, hand gestures, and any other subtle messages that are tell-tale signs of that person’s personality. This can lead to misunderstandings that seriously affect verbal communication.
Being an active listener requires practice and patience. It requires you to put someone else before yourself, even if you don’t like the person you are speaking to at the moment. Our own thoughts and feelings have to move to the back burner so we can truly hear what that person is saying. When we do this, it is so much easier to avoid miscommunication. This is the first step to communication. So open your ears. Clear your mind of your own thoughts. Get out of your head. Just listen.