The real reason for communication failures is often the lack of awareness of what is really happening. If you understand what level your challenges truly are and what you are communicating about, whether it is content or structure, you are then able to deal with the real issues. This article will look at the structural issues.
Are you truly listening to me when I’m talking?
Structural issue overview:
Un-resourceful ways of listening
- Finishing the other person’s sentences
- Lack of supportive non-verbal cues
- Inability to truly listen (=active listening)
Un-resourceful ways of talking
- Talking in monologue
- Different structures of talking
- Recycling old issues
- Using any of the emotional-based strategies
- Unhelpful situations, time or environment
Are you clear whether you are listening or talking?
The basis of every conversation is speaking and listening. Often, however, all we care about is what I want to say and not what the other person has said. Listening is something we expect to be able to do but if it hasn’t been trained and made aware, we are not truly able to actively listen.
What is active listening?
Wikipedia describes it as a communication technique, which requires the listener to feedback what they hear to the speaker, by way of re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, to confirm what they have heard and whether both parties understand it the same way.
In a normal everyday conversation this might feel stilted but when we are challenged in our conversations, it is a way to remove or diminish any assumptions (see also the articles on emotional issues affecting conversations and content issues).
Active listening also means putting aside your own agenda and truly focussing on what the other person is trying to convey. This will significantly help the other person feel understood – and isn’t that what we all want?
It means waiting for the other to finish, without interruptions and without finishing their statement in your own head or saying: “Yes, yes, I know what you’re trying to say.”
One last but not less important aspect is non-verbal cues: nodding your head in agreement, holding eye contact, facial changes that show you are listening, like frowning in astonishment are just examples. Some people are very stoic in their non-verbal cues and show minimal to none. Others are very expressive. The question is less about how much you show and more about whether you show that you are truly listening.
We all want to be listened to and we all want to get some talking time. A balanced couple’s conversation must have approximately equal talking time for each partner, taking personal talking styles into consideration. Women generally talk more and more often. Still, in a couple, there needs to be space for both.
Continuous interruptions will lead to frustration and subsequent emotionally based issues like stonewalling, shutting down or attacking.
Talking in monologue will lead to disinterest and cause a lack of or a lesser quality of listening. Listening gets tiring in a conversation if one person takes over.
People have different styles of talking, for example, some are very detailed and others prefer the broad view, the summary and are not interested in details. Notice and accept your different styles of talking.
By recycling old issues and using an emotional-based strategy, for example projecting, deflecting or personalising, the actual topic discussed is being diluted and avoided. If you drag old issues into the conversation you are less likely to resolve the topic at hand.
When discussing, make sure that the time and space is suitable. Having family or children around will make it less effective because there are distractions or other people will add their opinion, asked or unasked.
Make sure you plan sufficient time, ask your partner beforehand and get yourself into the right state of mind (and emotion) for the best possible outcome.