Everyone talks and most everybody listens. Most of us are better at one of those skills than the other. However, all of us could probably use a little improvement in another area of communication which may be the most important and least considered……..Being heard.
What do I mean by being heard? Being heard means not just hearing, but listening and understanding. Great teachers are often great communicators. They also can tell when their message is not getting through or being understood. When that happens, they go back and repeat, re-phrase or ask questions. Great teachers know that it is not enough to just give students the information. It must be received and understood as well. Great teachers, and great communicators, make being heard and understood their responsibility.
There are a number of ways to improve being heard. Some very simple suggestions are as follows:
Most of us are guilty of walking in on someone and telling them what we have to say, never bothering to see if we have their time and attention. If what you have to say is important, get permission first.
Pay attention to if you are being heard and understood or not.
Ask questions. That may be the best and easiest way to see if people are listening and understanding.
Be sure that your thoughts are clear.
If you are uncertain or unclear about what you have to say, then how can you expect others to understand? Make sure that you know what you want to communicate.
Explain why it is important.
Tell people why you are telling them this before you get started. A classic model for giving a speech is:
1. Tell the audience what you are going to tell them.
2. Tell it to them.
3. Tell them what you have told them.
While that may sound redundant (it is), it does work.
Repeat, rephrase, and re-clarify.
Good communicators can sense when the audience is not listening or understanding. When that happens, they say it again, or find a new way of saying it. They make sure that they are understood.
Clearly, not all communications require this level of thought or forethought. If your goal, however, is to be heard, than taking a few minutes to prepare yourself and the listener, will be time well spent.
Remember, good communicators do more than listen and talk. They take responsibility for being heard and understood. When it comes to communication, what could be more important than that?
Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.