Human relationships are build on trust. Trust comes from frequent communication. Also, openness and honesty creates intimacy. Before engaging in more “duh, tell me something I don’t know” buzzword bingo, let’s dig into the roots of these truisms. Why is communication paramount to human relationships? I’ll explain it the ExperienceZone way.
Humans are gregarious and thus social beings
We’re designed to live in groups. In fact, our survival depended on the goodwill of others already in the stone age. Men went out to hunt together. They needed to rely on their fellows to make a kill instead of being becoming a prey. Tough times… Women gathered fruit and passed on knowledge from one generation to the other about which fruit & vegetables are eatable and therewith feed the family and which ones poison the hungry family members.
Since then the risks lurking on our life paths have certainly decreased, yet we still need other people to become successful – in private and professional life. Evidence can be found in the animal kingdom. Just go into a zoo and study our closest relatives. Apes interact which each other the whole day! Those being isolated from the group begin to suffer mentally, emotionally and physically (in this sequence).
Communication is the bridge between us
Similar to other higher developed species, humans developed body language and over time verbal communication. Meantime, we’ve invented hundreds of languages with thousands of words. The most sophisticated communication techniques ever created on this planet (probably in the entire universe). We even call one who speaks more than two languages a genius. Certainly not me, as my German and English are rather average… Anyway, the more complex our languages became, the better we were able to express our feelings, air our ideas or get our points across. Communication is therewith a tool to tell the other person about ourselves. Since this usually happens between two people or more (unless you’re talking to yourself, which too can be functional in certain situations), it’s at least a two way street: We listen to what Bob experienced on the weekend. We learn about him and his family spending time together. We can ask him to tell us more or catch the ball and elaborate on our leisure time activities. This way, we exchange personal information and build trust eventually. The more we talk to each other, the more information gets shared. The more gets shared, the better we get to know the other person and the more effectively we’re able to build rapport or enrich ideas.
The key ingredients of effective communication
Yeah, there’re countless books about communication. So I won’t drain you with the things you take for granted (yet might not apply in daily life). My intention is to make you reflect how you communicate at the moment and how you want to engage with others to become successful. Success in terms of communication is to get what you want. Verbal interaction always has the objective to be understood. In most cases it is about selling yourself and your ideas. How do you do this best?
- Know your style. This requires you to run a personality analysis. Now you might experience a deja-vu: “Hey, this guy almost always comes up with this first point!” Busted. Guilty as charged. Nonetheless is self-reflection an highly effective approach. Reason being, you need to know your natural communication tendencies before you can change them. The die-hard-continuum of all personal transformations is a) gain clarity about the current state (that usually starts with you as a person), b) define the target state and c) determine measures to get from where you are to where you want to be. Makes sense?
- Seek to understand. Listen before you speak. Why’s that important? The more information you get about the other person and her ideas, the more raw material for your response or decision, you’re able to gather. By the way: Just keeping your mouth shut is not listening (most people just use this break to already think about what they want to reply rather than really listen). Latter requires you to understand what the communication partner actually means. Meaning can differ from the words being said. So you need to be able to read between the verbal lines. The tonality, facial expressions and body language give you valuable clues about what moves the other person.
- Seek to be understood. Communication is about the listener. Don’t dump your ideas as fast as possible into someone else head. Instead, plant them with care. I recently talked pretty fast and in complex lingo about nutritional science. What I received is raising eyebrows, which told me that my counterpart barely understood anything I wanted to get across. So, speak slowly and use terms which resonate with the other person. If you’re in doubt about the social style of the listener, I recommend simple words wrapped into short sentences. Enough said, em written, go out and practice to become a better communicator!