Seven Keys to Effective Communication

Back in high school, I had an AP Physics professor who was probably one of the most brilliant men I had ever met. He was not just a teacher; he was also an inventor. I had heard from previous students that he gave field trips to his home because his home was a museum of his own inventions. He had received some recognition for his work and had several projects pending a patent. However, there came a time when students were petitioning for this professor to get FIRED! As brilliant as he was, he lacked effective communication skills with his students.  He simply did not know how to impart his knowledge, how to address students’ concerns, or how to resolve whether or not the students had grasped his teachings. One day, out of frustration from both sides, he had a heated argument with a student who was fed up with the class. This student was obviously failing but felt unresponsible for that. One of the most beneficial and advanced skills any human being can have is that of effective communication. Most of us believe that we are good communicators because we know how to talk; how to give a piece of our minds and release whatever is inside of us. However, talking does not equate communicating as listening does not equate comprehending. Others of us know better but have allowed ourselves to become familiar with others such that we neglect doing that which is right. So much can be said about communication, but this post will only focus on seven of many keys that will benefit married couples, friends, colleagues, or any relationship.

1 – LISTENING

This is a big one, maybe the MOST important one. I often tell my nephew who plays the drums that his ability to listen attentively is what will make him a better-than-the-average drummer; that he would make fewer mistakes if he would just listen to the new song for a few minutes, and listen to the choir leader’s instructions, before he starts playing. Listening is never a waste of time. Studies show that the average person listens for only 7 seconds before he starts thinking up a response. Meaning; he does not listen to understand but rather to speak. He only listens long enough to get something to comment on. This also means that the speaker only has 7 seconds to win the listener’s continued listening, to stir up an argument, or to lose his listener altogether. This knowledge is what marketers use to sell products; something known as the “critical 7 seconds.” With this approach, they rightly divide their words in order to quickly win over potential customers. If you start your response to someone with “that was a stupid idea,” you will lose that person to a fight. But if you start with “you made some great points,” or “I agree with you when you said ‘this and that’” or if you start by just repeating what the person said to let him Know that you actually understood him, before adding your objections, you will have a more productive conversations. Of course, you are not responsible for how well the other person has developed his own ability to remain focused when his idea is then objected.

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

Proverbs 12:25

The bible says, “be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listening is how you will gather information about the person you are talking with: their personality, their reasoning, their level of understanding, details of their proposal, etc. Listening will help you know how and when to change your approach of delivery. When you know these things, you can better communicate with each individual person. It is through listening that a successful business man, for example, can communicate his product to thousands of people in different parts of the worlds, with different cultures and languages, and succeeds to convince all of them that they need his product. The person who listens more and talk less is most likely to put in the final word, and his idea will likely be the take-home.

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, this is folly and disgrace to him.”

Proverbs 18:13

2 – EMPATHY

This is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes; to think, feel, and understand as the other person does. Empathy will help you to know how to use the information which you have received from the other person to best help her.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

3 – CLARITY

It is not enough to be a genius if no one knows what on earth you are talking about. When I worked as a manager, I often reviewed the write-ups of my assistant before she would put them out. I sometimes found myself marking up her documents and sending them back to her for review because she omitted vital information, or used controversial words. One day, I pulled down a notice she had hung up and called her to my office. I told her to imagine that she had no background knowledge about the content of that letter. Then I asked her to read it to me. As she read it, her countenance slowly changed. As it was, that “friendly” notice was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Do not assume that everyone has the same educational level, background knowledge, or cultural understanding as you do. Clarify to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Mostly, do not get offended when someone does not understand you or asks you to clarify. It is better that they ask for clarity than that they walk away with the wrong conclusion.

4 – TIMING

They say timing is everything. That’s more profound than we often realize. The right thing said at the wrong time is the wrong thing, and the wrong thing said at the right time is still the wrong thing -if it is even possible to say the wrong thing at the right time- No one wants a bite of an unripened fruit. Mike Murdock says it this way; “Do not waste wisdom.” I say it this way; “do not throw a seed on unplowed grounds, it will not bear roots to grow and bring forth fruits.”

To everything there is a season, and A Time for every purpose under heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I remember a few years ago when Wendy’s came out with a specialty sandwich. I personally like it, but it was not a national preference. I went back to order it and it was no longer on the menu. When I asked why,the cashier told me that it was a trial menu. Because it did not produce the desired profit, it was taken out. However, she did say that they would bring it back the following summer and test the results. I do not know how Fastfood restaurants operate; I can only hope that she gave me accurate information. It makes sense to not waste time and resources trying to sell something that does not yield a desired profit. Sometimes, it may take time for people to warm up to an idea, taste, agenda, or request. Know when to bring up certain topics in a meeting or with a spouse. Know when your desire is important vs when it is urgent vs emergent. Know when to hold back and when to push on a matter.

“A Word Fitly Spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Proverbs 25:11

5 – HUMILITY

The ability to accept correction /objection is a direct evidence of humility. It proves that you have not become an idol to yourself; that you understand that you are also prune to mistakes, that you neither always have the answers nor always have the right answers. Hence, the ability to accept criticism of your ideas without translating it to criticism of your person is very profound in maintaining a calm and effective communication. People who easily get offended during conversations are those who have not come to this understanding. If someone says, “I don’t agree with the method of that proposal, or “I don’t think that is the best thing to do at this time,” they hear, “you are stupid.” They may reply with “are you calling me an idiot? are you calling me a liar?” And before you know it, chairs and fists are flying across the room, or they may only become more argumentative and refuse to budge on the issue until their opinion is accepted. This is because they equate the accepting of their ideas to acceptance of their person. Humility will help you to separate the two.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

6 – FOCUS

Avoid unnecessary sarcasm, ideas, or arguments that do not directly contribute to the purpose of the conversation. It is ok to go on a tangent to enhance the conversation. However, when the purpose of such is to belittle, castigate, or silence the other party… well, that become immaturity. When you sense a drifting away from the set agenda, quickly turn the wheels back and stay on track. Remember: you have the right to relinquish your right to have the last word or to win an argument. It takes much discipline, maturity, and humility to remain focused

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance.

Robert Quillen

7 – RESPECT  

You can respect someone and still disagree with his or her ideas. Engaged body language, eye contact, letting the other finish his/her statement, and NOT fidgeting with your cell phone or other gadgets will make the other party feel respected.

One of the greatest frustrations of this generation is trying to have a conversation with someone who is scrolling through his or her phone. In fact, just having a cell phone in your hand or on the table can make someone feel second place. They may believe that your attention to them is determined by what happens on your phone. Please; put your phone off or on silence and out of sight, and give the other your undivided attention. That speaks; “I respect you and your need to express your ideas or feelings, and I am all ears.”

On that note, please engage conversations, whether at work with colleagues or at home with your spouse and children, with an open mind and a cleared conscience. Come with this in mind towards the other person: “Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, I will think on those things.” Philippians 4:8
 
By NADEGE FORLU
www.benaiahwatch.com

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