What is effective communication? How do you know if you are communicating effectively or better yet understanding what is being communicated? I believe that we all feel that we understand what people are communicating to us. I also believe that we all feel that we can get our point across when communicating. Although, the truth is, how and what we communicate is completely sourced through our past memories and the definition we have given it. Let me explain, we only communicate through the memory of what we (think we) know to be true, whether or not it’s factually true. For example, you may have been raised eating turnup root your whole life, then you meet someone that only eats the turnup greens and throws away the turnup root. Who’s right, who’s wrong? Neither way is the right way, nor the wrong way. It’s just the way you were raised which makes you feel that to be true. So, we can be defining things just based on our own past experiences. Now with that said, this can really become very thought-provoking….
Effective communication begins with being totally present. This is hard for many of us to do because our brain typically starts thinking about other things when listening to someone speak. We will be triggered by a word that will create a thought in our mind of a past memory. Then even if we start listening again, you have lost a piece of information that could have been vital for communication. That’s where our communication starts breaking down. Now imagine this process happening multiple times during the course of a conversation. Will we fully understand what was being communicated? Or are we defining what is being communicated based on our past experiences? Hmmm….. Something to think about.
Let me give another example. Have you seen a movie or read a book for the second or third time and gained a new understanding of it? Why is that? This is because while during the course of a movie or book, your brain is searching for what seems familiar. A trigger word or an experience that seems relatable. Now you have missed a piece of the movie/book. There is a level of satisfaction when we revisit something that seems familiar. Our brain has created a past memory of it which will often give us unexpected pleasure when we gain new data from a familiar thing.
Even when verbal communication is being offered, we often read people by what their body language and energy are saying. This is referred to as nonverbal communication. Non-verbal communication: We are always communicating, even when words are not being spoken. The truth is that more than 65% of our communication is non-verbal. Posture, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and other body movements and even the energy that you are emitting are all forms of non-verbal communication. You can usually tell when someone is sad, or having a bad day, happy or scared just by the energy that they are emitting. As kids, we can remember the non-verbal communication our parents would give us, typically by just a look.
All communication is also up to interpretation. We interpret things based on our own energy state or past experiences. How many times have you texted or left a message for someone and didn’t get a response right away? Now, you are interpreting that as “something is wrong” or “they are upset with me”. If they don’t respond in the time you felt was necessary, then you begin to interpret that based on your own thoughts. Finally, when you do get the response, you are already anticipating whatever story you created in your mind. Most likely, the story you created is not truthful and inaccurate. Our brains tend to do this process again and again which can get exhausting.
Another form of communication is through tone. Typically, our tone sets the mood of a conversation. Most of the time in a conversation, it’s not the words that are being communicated, it’s the tone that it’s being communicated in that carries the conversation. The same sentence can be said with two different tones and mean two different thing which will get you different results. For example: What are you doing? vs What! Are You Doing!! One implies a question, the other implies anger or dissatisfaction.
Texting and social media have also become a tool for communication. This type of communication can often be misinterpreted based on your own energy. I do not feel it’s the most effective way to communicate, although it definitely has its place.
Effective communication begins by being totally present and listening with both ears. (Maybe that’s why God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth.). People tend to mirror your energy, so if you start with energy that communicates connection, you are off to a great start. This will also communicate trust. So, how can we do this and be effective? First, be fully present with the person you are communicating with. Be open to a new perspective even if it goes against what you know to be true. Have a sense of curiosity when listening without creating your own conclusion. Be aware of your body language. Last, but not least, be aware of your thoughts.
In today’s day, I think its imperative that we communicate effectively and with a purpose. Most communication that I hear today has no purpose. It’s just mindless chatter.
I challenge you to be aware of your thoughts while someone is speaking. If you find yourself being triggered by words that are taking you to a past memory, then you know you are not being fully present. This process creates awareness. Awareness is the key. The more aware we become of our prior conditioning, the quicker we can separate ourselves from it and shift it. Doing this process over and over will create more effective communication.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s keep this communication going. (See what I did there? ) Please comment below. Thank you!
Author: Michelle Navarro – Certified Life Coach