Oftentimes, people say they want to communicate better. What I have found is that they mean they want their communications output to be clearer – written, spoken, presented, or otherwise. But when I hear this, I look to their listening skills first.
If you agree with the adage ‘garbage in, garbage out’, listening is the most important component of communication. It’s the input part of communication and you’re unlikely to produce good communication output without considering your inputs.
There are a few different levels of listening to consider:
1 – I hear your words, but I’m thinking about how they affect me and how I’ll remember and respond.
2 – I hear your words and I’m aware of your body language, tone, and the context of the communication, and will respond taking into account all those factors. I ask questions.
3 – All of level 2, plus, I’m aware of you, and I’m aware of additional context and history. I am clarifying and summarizing what I hear to get even closer to what you’re saying. My goal is to understand.
There are certainly reasons to be in each level. But the key differences are important to consider when building relationships and trust.