Communication Breakdown, It's always the same...
I'm having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane..."
- Chorus, Led Zepplin's "Communication Breakdown"
As the song's chorus aptly states, the breakdown of effective communication can cause us to believe we are truly going insane. Why?
We must begin to recognize that clear communication, that results in 100% understanding and comprehension, is a fallacy.
Initially, you make think to yourself that this isn't correct. You may say, "I know exactly what I mean when communicating my thoughts, feelings, and desires/requests to others."
That is exactly where the problem begins. We assume that because we know what we mean, that others will innately know, too.
Let's look at some ways to improve our communication skills so that we can avoid going insane by making an ass out of a u and me (assumptions):
Birds of a feather, flock together.This old adage has relevance to our topic. Birds know one another. We don't see red-breasted robins flying with cardinals or geese flying with ducks. In the same way, we tend to be around (and flock with) people that are quite like us. Oftentimes, with the people we're closest to, we have the uncanny ability to almost know what they are about to do or say.
This seeming feat of telepathic premonition is acquired simply by being on, or around, the same mental wave or space. By liking the same things and generally being interested in one another as people, we begin to intuit their thoughts and behaviors. It is this intuition that allows us easier communication to be had than if we were total strangers.
When speaking with someone new, or someone you may be at disagreement with, try this:
Put yourself in their shoes. Go ahead, try it. First, remove any judgements you have about this person. See them clearly in your mind as they are; be open and receptive to the human that lay under the labels our minds place on people and things. Tap into your empathetic eye by acknowledging your own feelings, emotions and personal needs. Then, step into their perspective as best you can.
Be mindful. Observe. Watch facial expressions and body language. Compare your facial expressions and how your own body language reacts to theirs. Are you leaning in? Crossing your arms? Looking to the left or right? Up or down? There is a hidden world of communication happening beyond words. Here's an article to learn more, especially for the business world.
Think. Before you speak. Take your time to think about how to present your thought or idea. The way in which things are said, the semantics, and how, the syntax, reveal a lot about our state of mind and consciousness. As you observe other's speech, observe your inner voice and dialogue. Speak with clear intention.
Practice makes perfect (well, almost).Practice a technique. A great technique for clear, empathetic conversing is Non-violent Communication. Pioneered by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s, the Center for Non-Violent Communication has been promoting clear communication through a simple and effective model.
There are four parts to expressing and listening: Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.
State what you observe, without evaluations or judgements. Be as precise as possible. "I saw clutter on the desk this morning." "The car tire was flat as I walked out from the house." "The flowers are blooming."
State how your observations make you feel. "Seeing the sunrise with you makes me feel happy." "I feel content knowing that my report was posted in time." Surprising to me when I learned about the NVC model was a limited vocabulary for my feelings and emotions. The CNVC has a great list of both positive and negative feelings.
Usually when we are content, we don't need anything. However, when we are upset, it's probable because a need of ours is not being met. "I need some space and independence." "I need closeness and support." Be careful! We can mistake a need for a feeling! Check out some needs here.
Making a request of someone can be mistaken as commanding or demanding. However, when we identify our feelings and unmet needs (positive or negative) in a neutral and non-blaming manner, it becomes clear why we are asking for certain things. Example: "Hey John, it really makes me happy to see the aisle clear. I am responsible for everyone's safety. Aisles free of things allows a safer exit in especially during an emergency. Thanks for moving your bag."
When communicating, especially emotions, needs, and making requests, Non-violent Communication is a great way to get the message across. For more formal information, check out www.cnvc.org.