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You may find this hard to believe. Most people’s major complaint about work, their organizations, their marriages, their friendships, their relationships is communication. (See, I knew you would find this hard to believe!)

She sat across the room from her husband as I guided their conversation. They had come to me for relationship coaching.

She said in tears, “Talking to him is like speaking to … a brick wall!” Bet you coulda finished that sentence for her. He did.

I turned to him and asked for his response to what she said. He replied, “Huh?” She said, “EXACTLY!”

He said, “What?”

This site is devoted to training how to use new tools and strategies to communicate for a change. “For a change” because most people need to start communicating. And “for a change” because most people want better relationships. They want to see things change.

Communication involves two things – listening and talking. Sometimes talking is verbal. Of the two, I have observed that listening skills are most lacking.

Whether it is in marriage, dating, friendships, customer service, therapy, sales, ministry, public speaking, or any form of communication/relationship, ineffective listening is a major issue which leads to misunderstanding and conflict. The most requested training/coaching sessions involving executives, realtors, engineers, marriages and families is listening.

I said, “LISTENING!”

Poor listening leads to broken relationships, unnecessary conflict, lost business, time, and money. And poor listening leads to some major health issues. Listening more effectively helps create harmony with others. This reduces conflict, destroys barriers by building bridges, and relieves personal stress.

The biggest reason we are generally poor listeners (about C- to D- on average)? Lack of training. We claim listening is important – 70% of effective communication is listening, the other 50% is speaking (Hey! I’m a communication guy not a mathematician!) I have asked thousands if they have ever had a semester or year of listening training in grade school, junior high, high school, or college, rarely will one hand go up! We train speakers not listeners. And yet, almost all agree that effective listening is far more valuable.

Here’s the truth: LISTENING: true, effective, active listening is hard work! It takes effort. It takes energy. When people genuinely listen, it makes them physically tired because of the work/energy involved.

AND LISTENING – true, effective, active listening – is the result of good training.

Here are three tools which I focus on to develop listening skills. I guarantee that if you practice these, you will become a more effective listener. You will be a better leader. You will experience deeper, more meaningful, and mutually satisfying relationships. You will increase your income. And you will live a more peaceful, less anxiety-laden life.

ATTITUDE, PARAPHRASING, AND ASKING QUESTIONS

Attitude. There are three basic attitudes you need to work on to improve your ability to listen well. You need to genuinely care about others. You need to care about understanding the other person first. This means that you need to desire to understand MORE than you desire to be understood.

Paraphrasing is an explosive tool which demolishes barriers between people faster than any other. Paraphrasing is not simply repeating back word for word exactly what a person says to you. That’s called repeating, not paraphrasing. You can repeat every word and still not understand what was meant. Paraphrasing is presenting back to a person in your own words WHAT THAT PERSON MEANS to that person’s satisfaction.

Not only do you need to have great attitudes about others and powerful paraphrasing skills, you also need to be able to ask good questions. Being a great question asker draws people to you, creates a more positive image of you, and affirms the value of the other person. This all leads to a warmer, more open communication climate. If you will master the skill of asking good questions, others will also want to listen to you as well.

Future articles will focus more on each tool.

*I agree with the axiom “You cannot not communicate”. All behavior is communicative. And, as, Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson in Pragmatics of Human Communication observe, behavior is one of the few things in the universe of which there is no opposite; you cannot not behave. Therefore you cannot not communicate. Verbal behaviors and nonverbal behaviors make up communication. If we want things to improve, we need to learn to communicate more effectively … for a change!

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