Communication skills will always be the foundation of our species and its growth. In fact, if you get all the employees in a room and ask people if the company they work for is an employee-centric company or a customer-centric company, you will typically get split answers. You could try this with a multitude of questions and they will most likely all lead you to the same result: a communication gap.
So that begs the question: why is there not one answer that every employee intuitively gives? There are dozens of potential communication gaps that exist. The question is, how do you discover this gap and how do you close it?
“Tony Robbins used to tell me, you have 2 ears and 1 mouth, use them accordingly. I found it ironic that my job for him was to go and speak to companies for an hour at a time. During the workshops I was mostly talking. This is not necessarily the best way to communicate.” - Jesse Henry, Be Investable
At the core of communication is the concept of listening. There are a few fundamental listening mistakes people make.
Mistake #1 – Listening or Judging?
People listen from a place of judgment, not understanding. We listed this one first because preventing this mistake will virtually prevent ANY OTHER POSSIBLE MISTAKE in regards to communication. We can say with confidence that the 21st century has brought people to the point where most people don’t want to hear the opinions of others UNLESS those opinions happen to align with their personal philosophy. We’ve become intolerant because we attach labels and meanings to thoughts, decisions, and actions based on our own perspective. We tend not to jump to questions, but jump to conclusions. If people don’t agree with their line of thinking, then they’re either wrong, an idiot, ignorant, or a combination of the 3. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth if we approached communication from a place of understanding.
When we stopped judging people for their actions and started approaching conversations from a place of understanding, AMAZING THINGS HAPPENED. All of a sudden, people were more honest and authentic. People would go out of their way to thank us for allowing them to share. We don’t realize that judging people mentally oppresses them. They don’t feel like they can share their ideas because they’re just going to get mentally and emotionally beat up in the process. People want to feel understood and they want to feel like the listener cares. The only way to do that is to stop judging, realize that everyone has a unique perspective, and see communication as a dance, where you give your counterpart permission to express themselves how they see best fit. If you don’t come from that place of judgment, you’ll start to get the rawness and authenticity out of your team, your partners, your employees, your family that you deserve.
But we typically find that those who lean on the side of judgment are typically the ones who are not comfortable getting outside their comfort zone and avoid looking at the world through another person’s perspective.
Mistake #2 – Listening by Watching
People are listening for words – not perspectives. 55% of what you’re saying is coming from your body language, 35% of what you’re saying is coming from your tonality, and 10% of communication is your actual words. So only 10% of what’s being communicated is actually coming out of your mouth. Let’s let those settle in for a second. That means 90% of what’s being communicated is nonverbal. If you’re coming from a place of judgment, do you think you’re properly equipping yourself to intake all of the relevant information you need to “ask questions, give answers, and develop insight?” Absolutely not. When we’re communicating with others, we must seek to understand their perspective, and WHY they have the opinions that they hold. If words were our only form of expression and communication, then we’d be robots. Fortunately for us, we have emotion, body language, perspective, insight, and most importantly, collaboration, to give us the tools we need to make the decisions that computers can’t.
Mistake #3 – Listening to Respond
People are listening to respond, not to engage. This is probably the one that you’ve heard hundreds of times. Most people are not listening to you during a conversation. They’re waiting for you to shut up so that they can tell you why they’re right and you’re wrong. This is a recipe for disaster and gets back to the common thread here; asking the question “When I’m communicating, am I coming from a place of judgment, and superiority? Or am I coming from a place of understanding, compassion, and care?
Communicating without judgment will result in better overall communication and understanding. Remembering to welcome different viewpoints, allowing others to feel safe in expressing their differing positions will also get us out of our comfort zones. Realizing that communication with is also based on the non-verbal cues we express, often subconsciously, will also help us be more aware of how we communicate - our body language, our tone our openness to collaboration. Being present and engaging authentically, not thinking of what we will say next, but truly listening to what is being said, will also result in the best communication possible.