August 3, 2016

Focused Communication: A Recipe for Success

Here, wait just a minute, I shouldn’t be writing this article right now. I have a million things to do. Let me check my social-media notifications and e-mail, turn the stove off, make sure my cell-phone battery has enough charge …Sound familiar?

In a world of absolutely constant distractions, how many of us truly listen? By “truly listen”, I mean stopping what we’re doing, making eye contact, and physically facing our listener? These are some of the actions that show we definitely care about what the speaker is sharing.

Why is focus important?

My last two articles here and here addressed the need for patience and self-awareness when communicating. Both of these attributes relate to the need for concentration during any dialogue. Effective conversation is an actual connection of the souls. This means we’re taking in what the other person is saying, not merely thinking ahead. Here’s an example:

A friend of mine teaches piano to elementary-school students. Lessons are usually a half hour long. She says that this is the longest amount of time some of these students actually have an adult add value to them. How does this occur? She listens to them and focuses only on their needs.
What Can Happen When we Don’t Focus?

I can make practically anything in my life into a blog post. That’s one of the main benefits of this self-help genre. I’m going to swallow my pride and give you a ridiculous example of how I often don’t focus while communicating. Get ready for a “lol” moment. (I have lots of those!):

I asked my daughter, Caitlin, to put away a bottle of shampoo I’d just bought. I told her to place it next to my other shower products in my bathroom linen closet. She didn’t listen to my instructions. She thought, “Hey, I keep my shampoo on my bathtub ledge, so she must want hers there, too.”
What happened? I checked all over in the linen closet, but I couldn’t find the shampoo. Caitlin was sitting in a chair at a desk right outside the bathroom. I asked her where it was, but I didn’t stop looking in the linen closet as she spoke to me. I wasn’t heeding her answer any more than she had listened to my earlier instructions. She had to yell “Bathtub!” at me five times before I finally understood.  I walked over to my tub and found the new shampoo bottle there, right where my daughter thought it belonged. Who knew?
 A process that could have taken seconds ended up taking about five minutes. We could have saved a lot of time and heartache if we had given each other our full attention.

My Conclusion

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”—Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world with constant, multiple diversions—if we allow them in. This is no news. Face-to-face, direct communication is a rare commodity in many cases. However, actually “being present” during conversations is a gift of self that we can give to each other. It is the top way to add value to another person.

Related Posts

For more about respectful communication, please see my book: Accept No Trash Talk: Overcoming the Odds.

How have you added value to someone by truly listening today?

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