I experienced something terrible not too long time ago. The person I interacted with had such poor communication skills, that it ended up creating problems for both of us. I’ve also noticed in myself that I need to improve my own way of communication, so I started looking for ways to do that. Luckily, I came across The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh, which offered several ways of solving my problem. It was such a good read that from now on I’ll recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming a better speaker and listener.
But before you go and read the book for yourself, let’s dive a little deeper into the topic.
How do you recognize bad communication?
I’m sure we’ve all dealt with bad communicators, may it be our family members, friends or colleagues. Worst of all is, of course, when we recognize that we are the problem ourselves, like when I started to realize I needed to make a change to make things better.
Bad forms of communication can be anything from the other person seemingly not paying attention, looking over our heads, or elsewhere. Perhaps they have their eyes buried in their smartphones, which happens quite a lot these days, or maybe they just seem uninterested in general. Good communication always starts with you being a good listener first.
Second problem we face is when we’re in middle of a conversation, and someone starts talking, and rather than letting that person finish their sentence, we interrupt them to add ‘our two cents’. It’s unnecessary to interrupt the other person, and often rude in the first place. Let the other person speak their mind freely and when it’s your turn to talk, take it.
Third problem is that we don’t ask enough questions. We’re too self-centered and absorbed in our own way of thinking that we never stop to ask what the other person thinks of this and that. Other people have their opinion as well, and it’s very often not the case that one’s thinking is superior to someone else’s. In an ideal world, we would all share our ideas, and then we would reach a conclusion based on all the shared ideas. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works, but we can all do our part by trying to understand the person we’re talking to first before trying to change their way of thinking into what we assume to be the best.
Fourth sign of a bad communicator is when a person is in middle of a conversation, and someone else enters the conversation, and then the previous conversation is suddenly immediately over. This happened to me just recently, but I was also talking to someone of much higher status than me. I understand I was in the ‘wrong position’, but I still felt left out and ignored afterwards, and like what I wanted to say had no value.
Fifth sign is simply a person who talks and talks, without letting others have their turn.
What do we learn from this? All of these problems are relate to not being a good listener first.
How to become a better communicator?
Before you start fixing anything, you need to understand that we all could be better communicators, and that we all make mistakes. It’s okay to forgive yourself and others for failing to communicate their message clearly, because it isn’t easy.
The best way to work on your communication is to try to ask more questions, and really pay attention to what the other person is saying. You’d be surprised how effective way of communicating this is. People love to talk about themselves, and we also love those who show genuine interest toward us. So, this is the place where you start becoming a good communicator.
After you have mastered the art of listening, you should learn the art of storytelling. There are books out there that help you with this, I wrote a blog post about one of those books. Storytelling requires practice, but at the end of the day, we all love a good story, and all of us are capable of telling one.
This last tip I have is not always applicable, but try to practice it as much as possible. The last tip is, never out stay our welcome. What do I mean by this? Only stay in the conversation for as long as you need to, and don’t linger after it dies down. Leave people wanting to hear more, or wanting to have a good listener around. Make yourself more valuable by making yourself not so available, and when you can do it, try to exit the conversation after you’ve made everyone smile.
Wait, what was the book about again?
Right, as I was writing this blog post, I kind of got carried away. Perhaps I could use some practice in writing about one subject at a time.
The book is about communication, but it’s more than that. It’s about being mindful of not only others, but also yourself – especially yourself. It’s about taking time to think about what others are going through, and the book also tries to help you understand yourself.
Mindfulness comes when you take time to think before acting, and one of the ways offered in the book is through mindful breathing. Take your time to breathe, and be mindful about it, before you deliver your message. This will help you clear your head and think about what you are about to say, and how it might affect the person you are talking to.
The Art of Communicating is about understanding yourself and others, and you really should give it a read.
Oh, and here’s a treat for you. The author of this book, Thich Nhat Hanh, was interviewed by Oprah, and if you are interested in that you can watch the interview here:
I hope you found what I had to say today useful, and I wish you’ll have a great day.
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