I wanted to write this post after Tom Bresnahan tweeted out a photo that really got me thinking about how we communicate, Tiger Cub Scouts, and an incident that occurred with my youngest son in a shopping market parking lot. The overall message is model how to value individuals by listening to them.
Listen to Understand (The Goal)
The message is obvious, but how often is it that we are so geared up to talk that we never even listen in the first place. There is a major difference between hearing and listening. Listen to understand rather than waiting to speak and you just may learn something important. Throughout history, there are accounts of multiple Native American tribes practicing the art of waiting approximately five seconds after a person spoke before they began. This ensured that the person was heard and understood thereby causing more productive conversation. Today this proves to be difficult. We are naturally uncomfortable with prolonged silence. However, every time I have practiced this, I have received greater amounts and a deeper understanding of information.
This is in the fashion of the “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” list. Except it’s taken from a lesson I taught about being respectful and listening to a den of Tiger Cub Scouts. To paint the picture, these boys are 6 years old. I often stop to think about how relevant these skills are for all adults as well. The main point is to listen with your eyes, ears, and mind. This can only be accomplished when you ignore all the other distractions.
1. Eyes on speaker: Focus on the person you are speaking with. You convey that they are important when you look at them. It also shows that you are engaged in what they have to say.
2. Ears are listening: Listen to understand instead of hearing to talk. How often do you think you could repeat what someone had said to you five minutes after your conversation had ended? The age old trick here is to repeat, rephrase and check.
3. Mouth is quiet: Interrupting is one of the most rude and damaging behaviors in communication. It sends a clear signal to whoever is speaking that what they are saying has no value. It is not a long jump to the idea that you do not value them a person. Simply put, wait your turn.
4. Brain is thinking: Make sure you are making sense of what a person is saying. Think of clarifying questions that help the conversation move forward. Asking questions shows you value the person and increases the flow of information due to a larger amount of trust. Try to understand the motives for what they are telling you. Doing so will lend insight.
5. Body is still: Non-verbal communication is much more important than verbal. People have conversations and then walk away with that “it just didn’t feel right” taste in their mouth. That is due to a breakdown in non-verbal communication. Without getting too deep; be sure to have an open stance (or seated position), not roll your eyes, and either nod, shake your head, or give a slight umhmm to signify you are listening.
Keep Waving (The Whole Package)
Not everyone you encounter will communicate well. The only response you have is to keep trying. You do this through modeling. There is no better way to teach somebody about proper, respectful communication techniques than modeling for them. I was at the store with my son the other day when we had to stop and wait to cross the street on our way to the parking lot. A car finally stopped to let us cross and my son stopped as he arrived at the front of the car, turned to the person driving, and yelled thank as he waved. Unfortunately, the person did not acknowledge him. Undaunted, my son tried a little louder and decided to wave with both hands the second time. There was still no response from the driver of the car who had been nice enough to stop, but appeared to have no interest in waving back at a five year old. My son remained stalwart. He took half of a step toward the car; put both hands in the air, and wildly waved his hands (and arms by default) as he stared at the driver. Finally, the driver smiled and waved back. My son’s response was a big “thumbs-up” to the driver and a return to dad’s hand as we continued our walk into the parking lot. My point you ask? Do not lower your standards or expectations because others do not match rather reach out and bring them up to yours no matter how many times or how much modeling it takes.
When communication fails:
· Ideas die,
· Innovation stops,
· Leaders fail to succeed,
· Teachers become frustrated,
· Parents don’t get involved, and most importantly…
Kids don’t learn.
Work at it (Be Purposeful), make it better (Act with Integrity), and keep trying to bring others up (Build Your Character).