The Secret To Effective Communication in 5 Simple Steps
Have you ever felt certain you communicated something clearly, yet the other person heard a totally different message than what you meant to convey? George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that has taken place.”
Brilliant communicators don’t just say what they want to say. They’re aware of how their communication is received and take responsibility for how their communication is heard. They ask purposeful questions to ensure authentic understanding happens.
Years ago I was invited to speak on a Caribbean cruise. I hadn’t been on a cruise since I was a child, and I imagined it would be fantastical and luxurious.
My boyfriend and I had just finished watching the movie Titanic, and I had images in my mind of the character played by Kate Winslet floating down the wide splendid staircase to meet her man, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The thought of creating my own romantic scene, with me in my gown and my boyfriend in his finest tux, was enchanting.
As we were packing our bags, I turned to him and said, “Honey, this will be amazing. It’ll be just like the Titanic!”
He snapped, “The Titanic? Are you crazy? I don’t want to go on a cruise if it’s like the Titanic!”
I said, “Didn’t you see the movie?”
“Yes!” he quipped. “The ship sank and everyone died!”
To him, the word “Titanic” conjured horror. To me, that same word “Titanic” lit up images of elegance and soul mate love. We had totally different images in our mind for the exact same word.
Had we not been present, playful and able to communicate, this misunderstanding may have escalated. Someone else, in the absence of Supreme Influence, could have reacted, projecting negative emotions and asking insecure questions like, “Why doesn’t he want to go on a romantic cruise with me? What’s wrong with him, or what’s wrong with me?”
Have you ever experienced a disproportionate reaction over a mix-up like this? Or has someone ever reacted in this way toward you?
Regardless of the response you receive from another, you are Response-Able, which means you are able to respond in a healthy, respectful way, no matter what. I call that living in Supreme Influence.
When you’re in conversation, practice inhaling a breath before responding. Ask questions to elicit the deeper meaning beyond their words.
In this example, my boyfriend could have asked, “Honey, how do you mean it will be just like the Titanic?” Then listened. That question would’ve caused me to reveal more of my fantasy.
Interestingly, the actual cruise reflected none of our initial perceptions. It was a family-themed budget cruise ship with flashy Las Vegas style lights, and all-you-can-eat fried-food buffets. NOT my picture of regal living. No gown, no splendid staircase, just one titanic miscommunication!
Remember, when you write or speak, the words you choose stand in for an entire mental construct, which is different for each person. As you communicate, you use words in an attempt to convey multilayered pictures, sounds, and feelings that exist within your consciousness. But words are like the tip of a giant iceberg, revealing only what’s on the surface of deep, rich internal representations. That’s why it’s essential to seek to understand, rather than assume you know what someone means when they speak.
Below are a list of simple yet potent questions that you can ask to more clearly understand another person’s map of the world, you can effectively speak into their listening style in 5 simple steps.
Practice asking these 5 Questions:
- How so?
- I’m curious, what do you mean by …?
- Please tell me, how specifically…?
- I’d love to know, what specifically you mean by ______________?
- Tell me more. What do you see in your mind when you say _____________?
Effective communicators look beneath the surface. They seek to understand by paying attention, and asking good quality questions to discern the other’s point of view. They listen, even if they don’t agree. This approach allows them to create understanding and bridge worlds.
Niurka is a transformational leader, master coach, author of the book Supreme Influence, and the Founder/CEO of Niurka, Inc. Her life’s work empowers, inspires, and guides people to live purposefully. Prior to launching her company in 2000, Niurka was the top corporate trainer for Anthony Robbins for 5 years. She’s taught tens of thousands of people to elevate the way they think, speak, and live. She leads transformational courses that guide people to MASTERY. A master trainer of NLP, and a master of hypnotherapy, and timeline therapy, Niurka’s company is a global academy offering certification in these disciplines. Find her online NiurkaInc.com