We all know good communication is a vital part of life if we want to get along with our mates, our partners, our children, our boss or employees… but how many of us do it really well?
Isn’t it true that, in general, people listen long enough to think their own thoughts then wait for the person to finish so they can interject those thoughts into the conversation? You know you’ve done it before, or maybe still do…me to.
Its for reasons like these that personal development is so important and why books like the Twelve Pillars by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener are so important. We all need to grow, but I didn’t always feel that way.
Success Pillar 10:
All communication brings the common ground of understanding.
The year was 2002 and Steven Covey seminars were inspiring people all across America just as they still do today. My supervisor, Dr. Wayne Perry, Director of Physical Therapy at Andrews University, is one of those people who enjoy seeing others grow in personal development, so he hired a man named Dr. George Soper, Senior Vice President of Memorial Hospital in IN, to come to our work place and teach his staff the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
At first I was bored. Dr. Soper was great, but I was so disinterested in personal development at that time that he needed to strike a chord in order to get my attention. When he did, I sat straight up. I listened intently as he told us stories about how the skill of listening, and the skill of understanding, impacted his life.
It was as if I were hearing new information for the very first time. In reality I’d probably heard it many times before but not in story format, which for most is an easier way to learn. Nor were these concepts exampled on a consistent basis by anyone I knew to fully grasp the concept for myself.
By the time he was done talking I knew I wanted to practice the art of listening, and understanding, on my oldest teenage son, whom at the time had started to rebel. It wasn’t like him and I wanted to understand why. Dr. Soper’s techniques seemed easy enough to try so the next day I invited my son to lunch. After eating quickly I physically put my finger over my mouth to hold it shut, just to remind myself that I was there to listen and understand only. I wanted to see if this really worked.
It found it extremely challenging. I wanted to the do the parenting ‘norm’ and say things like, “You did what?!” “You said what to your teacher?!” “Well no wonder your grades are lower than they should be!” etc. etc. My will was in a constant battle to over-rule my mind much, less my try to keep my tongue still. I was beginning to see how damaging my personal beliefs had been about parenting kids with critical words.
“No wonder this poor kid feels rebellious. Just look at how many times you’ve wanted to correct his behavior during the last 10 minutes!” I thought.
To anyone who has ever done this I want you to know that it is NEVER TOO LATE to make changes in your behavior to turn around any relationship.
I remained with my finger over my mouth, determined to listen and to understand… and understand I did. I saw his pain, his desire to want to do well in school, to have better relationships with his family and to live a life where he could feel happier about himself rather than be corrected every 10 minutes.
My silence worked so well that it changed my life right there. I also worried my son greatly.
He stopped in mid sentence, as if to realize he was the only one talking. “Mom, are you okay? You haven’t said a word the entire time. You just sat there and listened. What’s wrong?”
I laughed out loud. My son had no idea what was going through my mind or heart at that moment. I wanted to throw my arms around him and dance a mini jig at him affirming what I had done, but I just smiled and told him, “I’m really good. I really enjoyed our talk.”
I left the restaurant with several thoughts and feelings going all different directions, one of which was “I did it Dr. Soper! You were so right!”
So here are a few tips on how to be a good listener and not an interrupter:
- When you want someone to understand you – say to them – “Please tell me how you see this situation”
- When you want to be heard you say, “I’ll listen to you first, then I’d like to share how how I see it.”
- Get clarification – “Is this what you are saying….?”
- Affirm – “I think I understand you felt….?” use emotions like happy, sad, hurt, frustrated
- Your side of the story – “From my perspective it seemed….” gently share your perspective and feelings
These tips are extremely helpful if you can consistently apply them in your life. Focus on them and they will expand your relationships in ways you can’t imagine and remember it’s never too late to listen or to understand.
Thank you Dr. Soper, Dr. Perry and Dr. Covey for teaching me how to be a more highly effective parent and person. I continue to teach the skills I’ve learned from you and if you ever want me to speak to your students about seeing their purpose or Vision, accepting the Power they have within them to accomplish it, and to take action on what they learn, let me know.
Thank you for reading this article. I appreciate you so much! Please leave a comment below if you can relate to this post, and retweet if you found it helpful in any way. Previous pillars are listed here:
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