• Tim Herrera

Words Get in The Way of Our Communicating

As communicators, we frequently focus too much on what we are saying. Too often, we associate communicating only with talking. But screenwriter Charlie Kaufman nailed it when he said: “Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.” No truer words have ever been spoken about the value of not speaking.

We don’t spend nearly enough time listening. I realize that at night after a long day when my wife tells me about her day. Usually, I’m too tired to talk. So, I listen. And that’s when I feel I’m communicating the best; when I’m not saying much of anything.

Communications expert Cheryl Conner wrote “the greatest communication strategy you can learn is to gain a solid instinct about when to speak—and conversely, to learn when words will simply get in your way.” We often let words get in the way of our communicating. And sometimes we trip over those words.

In the communications field, we drone on about how we want to improve our skills and how we want to influence people with what we are saying, but we can’t stop talking enough to be effective communicators.

If you did an online search for “improving communication skills” you’d get hundreds of results and it is very likely each entry would have something about active listening; be alert, listen, don’t interrupt. Try that. Practice that. It works.

Most people aren't interested in improving their own communication skills. They’re focusing more on finding the right words to make other people change their minds. Is that effective? You know the answer. Because most communication is nonverbal, we should lock in with our listening and learn to not fear those quiet parts of our communication.

Author Roxi Hewertson once wrote, “Leaders make fewer wrong assumptions and better decisions when they ask more than they tell and when they listen more than talk.”

Listening leads to better understanding. Better understanding creates stronger communication. So, we need to shut up, listen, and not let our own words get in the way of our communicating.

(Tim Herrera is the author of 30 Things You Should Know about Media Relations and other books on communications.)

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