From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (April 2012):
“Communication is the most
important skill in life.”
~ Steven Covey
I shared this quote with a room full of workshop participants recently, when I was teaching a program on conflict resolution. “How many of you would agree with this quote?” I asked. Everyone raised their hand.
Then I asked, “How many of you believe you were raised in a family where effective communication was taught from the get-go?” Only one hand went up, yet only half way!
Here we were, a room full of grown-ups, talking about how our communication skills impact other people who make up the teams we’re part of, or the departments we’re leading or the companies we own – and the families we all have. Yet no one felt they were able to create a truly optimal level of communication – especially when conflict erupted – because they were still modeling ineffective behaviors they had learned years ago at home.
One individual readily admitted to being quite skilled at “stuffing it!” “How’s that workin’ for ya?” I asked, mimicking Dr. Phil. Everyone laughed.
All communication is learned. By the age of 5, we’ve probably had a billion experiences in sharing communication. Very early on, we develop ideas on how we see ourselves, what we can expect from others and what seems to be possible for us in the world. These decisions – many of which are unconscious – greatly influence how we communicate today. And, depending upon the family we were raised in, this could be good or bad news!
Yet the beauty of being human is that anything we’ve learned can be unlearned. As long as we’re committed to changing, it’s never too late to acquire this “most important skill in life”. It starts with awareness building, then skill building and then a commitment to practicing consistently.
Knowing how to communicate effectively also helps us avoid the trap of getting emotionally hooked when we’re triggered. The more skillful we become, the easier it is to consciously direct the flow of communication towards resolving the problem rather than blaming, judging or criticizing.
The bottom line is: the way you communicate affects how other people respond to you.
So, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
This week’s practice:
Communicating effectively is about taking responsibility of how you express yourself and receive others. Consider your relationships, at work and at home, especially the ones most important to you. If you plumbed the heart of your own communication skills, how would you measure up?
Are you perceived in ways you would like? Are you taken seriously? Do you know how to calmly and clearly get your point across? Can you listen to diverse points of view?
Or do you behave in ways that are unhelpful, such as avoiding important conversations because they are difficult? Or stop yourself because you don’t know how, where or even why to begin? Or get easily sidetracked? Or think about your reply, rather than listen to what’s being said?
Do you interrupt others …or finish people’s sentences?
No judgment, no blame here. We’re simply looking. Remember, awareness-building is first step towards changing a behavior. Next time, we’ll talk about how to break unhelpful habits and replace them with more useful and effective ones.
Schedule a complimentary call with Mary!