It’s Not What You Said, It’s What I Heard

All the information we receive is filtered through our own life experiences. It could be what we hear, what we see, what we touch and what we smell. Some of our senses will trigger vivid memories, while others will trigger past experiences, both joyful and painful.

These memories are stored in our mammalian brain / limbic system, that connect events with feeling and operates primarily on a subconscious level and without a sense of time. This evolutionary adaptation can be the cause of much miscommunication. Depending on the level of distress / intensity / anxiety / time, or any other distractions can affect our ability to be present for another human being. This could be partner, children, employer, friend, colleague, acquaintance or shop assistant.   

The adage that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak also applies to effective communication, without the ability to hear, we are only having a one-sided conversation and that is a sure-fire way for miscommunication.  

4 tips to improve our communication.   

  1. Listening with our full attention, not just to the words spoken, also to the tone of voice and observe body language.
  2. Minimise distractions to allow you to focus.
  3. Respond to questions without reacting by gathering more information, ask open questions, what, where, when, how. Responding gives us the ability to be creative in our communication, whereas reacting comes from past experiences and leads to rigid thinking. By asking open questions we help clarify the topic being discussed and takes some of the intensity out of confronting or uncomfortable subjects.
  4. Take responsibility for our own behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Use “I” statements, avoid blaming others and incorporate empathy into daily conversations.

These suggestions are skills that need practice, while some are innate, others take effort and perseverance. All will help aid our communication, increasing intimacy with loved ones and improving relationships in general.