Communicating is a Two-Way Street

By Bill Hodges

©2003 Hodges Seminars International

No matter what the situation-boss-employee, wife-husband, parent-child, or neighbor-neighbor-communicating is always a two-way street. Here are some suggestions that may help you to get your message across or to be sure that you are understanding the messenger.

As the speaker, be sure you are presenting your ideas in a manner that can be understood by the listener. Donít try to impress others with the fact that you are a college graduate and have a huge vocabulary. If the listener must go to a dictionary to understand you, he or she will quit listening long before you stop speaking. On the other hand, the listener does have a responsibility to speak up if he does not understand the terms being used. Asking for a quick clarification of a specific term may prevent misunderstandings later.

As the listener, get into the habit of asking questions as the speaker proceeds. Keep in mind, better a question than a mistake. As the speaker, welcome questions. It shows the listener is paying attention and is trying to follow you. Do not look at questions as challenges to your propositions, but as additional opportunities to expand your thoughts.

As either the speaker or the listener, try to paraphrase the other personís remarks. For example, the speaker says, "The sky was a funny color between black and white." The listener, to get a better picture in his mind and to ensure he is seeing the same picture, responds with, "What you are saying is the sky was gray." The speaker responds, "Yes-gray, like charcoal." Paraphrasing forced a more complete meeting of the minds.

Our body language, as a speaker or a listener, can have a major impact on whether the message gets through. The body has certain mechanisms that respond to threatening gestures or speech. None of these mechanisms enhance communications, and most of them hinder it. Avoid raising your voice and making any threatening gestures with any part of your body, including your face, if you want your message to be received, unless your message is intended to create fear in the listener. However, as a side effect of this technique, be aware that in creating fear, you may destroy any opportunity for meaningful communications. From the listenerís standpoint, body language can be equally important. If you continue to shuffle through your mail or read a report while someone is speaking, the unspoken message you are sending is that you are not interested in what he or she has to say. As a listener, give the speaker your full attention and occasionally give a nod or word of assent to let the speaker know that you are following.

Finally, Ed Howe said, "No man would listen to you talk if he didnít know it was his turn next." Always be willing to allow the traffic to move both ways on the street by not monopolizing the conversation.

If you do these things, you will be admired when you speak and valued when you listen.

Bill Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, and syndicated columnist. Hodges may be reached at Hodges Seminars International, P.O. Box 89033, Tampa, FL 33689-0400. Phone 813/641-0816.

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