Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you have a sense they are listening, but not paying attention to what you are saying? Perhaps you have been on the other side of this scenario? This is a common communication challenge we too often experience. One of the reasons is because actively listening takes practice. Another reason this occurs is due to the method in which the information is being presented. In other words, not in a compelling manner.
Out of respect for the person who is talking, most people will exhibit signs they are listening. However, if you were to ask them to playback what they heard you say, this is when you will be able to determine if they were listening. I always find it interesting in this scenario to hear how someone interpreted what you had to say. Sometimes their interpretation is far different than you thought you were conveying. This is one of the challenges many people face when they think they are communicating effectively, but they are not.
Impactful leaders and sports coaches are interesting to listen to because they have mastered the ability to remove the gray zones when they are communicating with others. Perhaps not one hundred percent of the time, but their ability of having mastered how they convey their information to others serves as a strong role model. When these role models are in short supply, it makes it more difficult to learn how you can communicate more impactfully.
Have you ever noticed that some people when you engage them in conversation with you will listen, but not ask you any questions back? In fact, I challenge you to test this scenario out. What I would like you to test out is to see how long you can have a conversation with someone where either you are doing all the talking, or they are, and in this situation if they are the talker, how they may not allow you to contribute to the conversation. Yes, this is classically an unbalanced conversation, yet, if you were to ask the “talker” later that day whether they thought their conversation was effective, they will likely think it was.
When someone is doing all the talking and doesn’t allow the other person to equally contribute, this imbalance is another example of what contributes to having a gray area of conversation. A conversation where only one of the participants thinks they were communicating effectively. I’m sure you have potentially been a participant in this type of conversation, but perhaps you didn’t consider it was contributing to poor communication conditions.
One of the most amazing factors about having gray areas of communication is that with minor adjustments, they can be taken to a much higher level of being able to communicate effectively. The challenge is that the person who doesn’t realize they need to make these adjustments will not do so without someone calling this to their attention. Attempting to do this is a bit of a delicate dance and will require experience of having done this before. The person who is delivering this information also needs to be both aware of the approach that will work to accomplish this, as well as being prepared to have the person they are sharing this information with being defensive about hearing what is being conveyed. Focusing on having the conversation be highly constructive is going to offer the best method, with the intent of not having the person you are sharing this information with feeling like they are being attacked.
Offering constructive feedback, especially when someone isn’t aware they need it has a couple of option results. One of them is that the person will not immediately benefit from the conversation, as they may require time to process what they are hearing. A second path results in what I will refer to as “a wakeup call”, and it will almost physically jolt the person into a heightened state of paying attention. More importantly, being able to fully listen, digest and then apply the information being shared with them to their benefit.
If you or someone you know is looking to improve your communication level, and to get out of being someone classified as a “gray zone” communicator, here are some suggestions you can apply to help you increase your communication level of effectiveness.
- Can you realistically be open-minded to the hearing there are ways to improve your communication ability? Hint: You will need to do this this to have a chance to do so.
- On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rate yourself in terms of being influential with your conversations? If you are less than an 8, the good news is that there are significant options for how you can increase this number.
- One way to increase both your communication level and your ability to effectively influence others with your communication is to consider first what the end goal of your conversation is. Stating this upfront in your conversation will help the listener to understand the context of what you will be discussing. Now it’s up to you to craft an appealing set of reasons why the person should listen to what you must convey.
- Consider listening to some YouTube videos on people who are debating a topic. Although they are intending to win the debate, you will gain valuable techniques they are applying to impactfully convey their side of the scenario.
- Are you aware of your communication style? Perhaps you haven’t considered this before, yet you should do so, if you are interested in increasing your ability to converse with others more effectively.
- To decrease the risk of having your conversations fall into the gray area, apply the journalism 5 W’s and 1 H technique. This will help to make sure you are conveying these important elements into your conversation which will increase the clarity of what you are trying to express. They are: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
- Test out your current communication style in different scenarios and applications such as one-one-one conversations, team communications and both verbal and written formats too. Ask for authentic and constructive feedback post these scenarios and be sure not to act defensively when you are hearing what others are sharing with you.
I find it hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t want to increase their opportunity to communicate more effectively, as the benefits of doing so are unlimited. My hope is that you will aspire to do so, and that you will begin to see positive results when you reach a new level of being able to get out of the gray zone area of communication.
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