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Honing Your Communication Skills, Part 1

  • Dr. Neil Clark Warren
  • 2006 31 Jul
Honing Your Communication Skills, Part 1

Most people think their communication skills are just fine. It's easy to progress through life as a relatively happy and productive person with poor communication skills. It's the type of problem that erodes at your quality of life in subtle, indirect ways.

If your appendix becomes infected and starts to swell, you will know in short order. Before long you'll be in the hospital taking care of a problem that has demanded your attention. Unfortunately for many, poor listening and poor communication skills never grab their attention in the same way. They unknowingly endure the consequences of an ailment they never even recognize.


Once you make a commitment to work on your communication skills the results are immediate.


Every relationship you have will improve. It doesn't matter what relationship it is. It may be a relationship with your boss, a relationship with your closest friend, relationships with the other people on your softball team, or maybe a relationship with the eventual love of your life. Every relationship will get better, and then your own enjoyment of life is going to go up. I have to tell you that any person who is a great communicator enjoys life more.


You have the sense of getting more of the really important innermost stuff from inside of you across to other people. You have the sense of their not only receiving it, but understanding it and liking it, and more than that you have the sense of getting clear about your own inside world for yourself.


Your efforts at becoming a better communicator will straighten out the wrinkles of your life. Most wrinkles in life have to do with poor communication. When you aren't very good at communicating with other people, then all kind of difficulties start occurring.


Four things are needed to be a great communicator:


1. You need to be able to access your innermost thoughts and feelings.


Now accessing your innermost thoughts and feelings should be easy, but it's not. It's especially difficult for men, but there are a lot of people for who it's difficult. As I go around the country I talk about the conspiracy that I think has existed in relation to little boys in our culture that has kept them from becoming great communicators.


That conspiracy has to do with our fear that they will become sissies and so, in order to keep them away from their tender feelings that might cause them to cry now and then, we keep them away from all their feelings. We get them to hit balls and to shoot baskets and to throw a football with a spiral and we keep them from all their tender thoughts and feelings. Because they're kept away from all those tender thoughts and feelings they lose contact with those thoughts and feelings. They're not able to access them at some point in their mid-twenties or early thirties when their new wife says to them, "Let's talk about deep things. Let's be intimate with each other." They just don't know how to be intimate because they just can't get hold of what they can share that would be intimate.


2. You need to be able to identify and verbalize these thoughts and feelings.


The only way that I know to develop a better ability to verbalize your deepest thoughts and feelings is to practice reflecting on what those thoughts and feelings are until you really have a good hold on those thoughts and feelings, and then constantly practice trying to say what it is you think and feel.


3. You have to be able to accurately understand what another person is saying


One of the things that our research has shown over and over and over again is that it's not enough just to understand, or to try to understand, where another person is; you have to be able to accurately understand where they are. It is that accurate understanding of another person's deepest thoughts and feelings that creates a feeling of connection and bonding.


4. You need to be able to make conversations as personal as possible.


In other words, when you're talking to someone about the weather and they're going off on a trip, if you can say, "Boy, I can hear some real concern for you about the high winds today, because you're going to be out in your camper aren't you?" All of a sudden, you've understood the concern they have about the weather. It's not just concern about high winds, it's concern about high winds that might affect them in some personal way.


Virtually every conversation you have, if you can not only understand what another person is saying, not only understand what your inner thoughts and feelings are, if but you can make it personal in some way, you turn an ordinary conversation into an intimate conversation. It is intimate conversation that makes people think of you as a great communicator.


This is step one of my plan for creating better communication. In part two of this series I will give you a specific roadmap to help you achieve these four goals in an effective manner.