When we think of communication, we often think about talking. What are we going to say, what is the other person going to say, how will we respond, etc. But the most important part of communication is not talking, it is listening.
Listening is about being present. It is about hearing what the other person is truly saying with both the words they choose to say and the words they choose not to say. It is about tone, inflection, and cadence. It is about hidden meaning. It is about opening yourself up to the other person and the other person being able to open themselves up to you. Communication is about trust and vulnerability. Communication is about sharing and wanting to be understood. In one word, communication is connection.
Steven Covey stated that “most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to respond.” This is why people are not connecting, why people are so divided, and why people think we are all so different; it is because we are not listening with the intention to understand one another. When we communicate with others with the intention not to understand but merely respond, we are always pushing our ideas, our agenda, and our desires forward. We are using the other person as a springboard to shout our message when we should really be listening to each other and understanding where they are coming from.
When we truly listen to what someone is saying, we are hearing their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns, and their struggles. When we share in this communication we are able to connect on a much higher level. We are not just sharing information, we are sharing ourselves. Is that not the point of communication, to share ideas and connect? Isn’t communication used to join people together and bridge the gaps that separate us?
Think about a time when you felt really connected to someone. Why was that? It was because you felt that the person really got you. They understood you. They could empathize. They were able to do that because they listened. Next time you are in a conversation with a friend, loved one, co-worker, or boss, instead of trying to push your agenda forward and speaking just to be heard, listen, really listen to what the other person is saying. Listen to understand where they are coming from. Listen to understand what they need and want. Listen to understand their struggles. Listen to connect.