Sometimes we hear something, but it takes a while to sink in.
It’s that learn by doing thing.
Now, I heard the advice when it was shared, but only through living life and coming up against challenges do the words become part of who we are.
Say it and shut-up. I learned this from my now retired college writing professor, Dr. Ronald Dorr. This is not how he said it, but you get the idea. When we add unnecessary words, use difficult language, or avoid the point, what we are trying to communicate quickly gets lost. Be clear and direct. Choose words wisely. Edit.
Only ask questions that you honestly do not know the answers to. This comes from my chaplain residency director, Scott McRae. When we begin any interaction completely confident in knowing that we ‘get it all’, there is no point in going forward. Their experience, knowledge and beliefs are just as valid as ours. Even as a teacher instructing a class or a pastor in front of a congregation, we all can learn something from each other. Dictating our absolute thoughts and beliefs to someone else only serves to alienate and/or shame them. None of us are perfect, and we are all on a transformative journey. Meet the other person where they are, from where we are. We may be in the same physical place, but spiritually and developmentally, we could easily be in different galaxies.
It isn’t important what you meant to say, but how the other person heard it. My Dad, Dennis Hansen, shared this with me when I was a teenager. As a hormonal young girl looking at life as more unfair than fair, I didn’t want to hear this. Why does all the responsibility lie on me? Shouldn’t, can’t, the other person take some ownership too? Yet, no one can read our mind. We are limited by biology, emotions and experience. We or the other person may be having a difficult day, didn’t get enough sleep, having memory issues, or on a lot of pain killers. Our brains can have a few glitches, making both sides of the conversation into the telephone game. Even the words we used could be translated differently, as words carry baggage. A simple ‘we’ could be seen as ‘you and me’ rather than ‘all of mankind.’ Plus, my experience of the word ‘Spirit’ may have a completely different connotation than yours. Finally, the method of discussion can warp perceptions. When the communication isn’t a fluid and equal interchange, the insidious effects of unequal power come into play. In the end, we can never control what the other person hears, but knowing that the message heard is likely different than the message said, we can do our best to increase the odds of getting our meaning across.
Effective and honest communication is far from easy. There is a reason why there are Dale Carnegie courses, degrees in communications, and a thriving court system. I pray that these tips can be as life change for you as they have been for me. As with anything, it can take a while for a concept to become natural to us.
May the unique and wonderful person you are shine through all the limitations of our earth-bound world!
Come and enjoy a wonderful day pampering yourself – soul, mind and spirit!
Finding Purpose and Balance Retreat, Sat. May 4th, Excelsior, MN
Here are a few additional resources:
The Chasm of Effective Communication faithvillage.com
Effective Communication: Getting Things Done in Groups University of Maine Extension Services
Communication Tips United States Coast Guard