What Keeps Us from Being Heard & Understood
If there is one thing that is universal, it is the desire to be heard and understood. Whether we are talking about a family member, a coworker, a friend, or even someone we don’t know, such as a clerk or customer, we all want what we are saying to be heard and understood.
Therefore, when what we are saying isn’t being received well by others, we tend to become resentful, defensive, and more insistent. Or, we just give up and give in… neither of which is particularly effective, because when we become more insistent, have you noticed that they become more resistant, and we are often caught in a “no win” argument. If we just give up, we feel resentful and maybe even angry, which begins to color the relationship in a way that creates more problems in the future.
For those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that this tendency to go to either fight (more insistent) or flight (give up and give in) comes from the fight-or-flight part of the brain (the brainstem). Given that we don’t want to get in an argument (fight) or give up, I suggest we first ensure that we are coming from the clear, confident, creative part of the brain (the neocortex, what I call the “Top of the Mind.”)
One way of doing this is to become clear about our goal and use that clarity to make more purposeful decisions about how we communicate. In other words, if our desire is for them to truly understand what we are saying, we need to ensure that we are “speaking their language.” For example, let’s assume that you are in a foreign country and you want to be heard and understood by the person or persons to whom you are speaking. If you had an internal app that would allow you to speak their language, you would do that in a heartbeat!
The same holds true with people, in general. We have to “know their language” or truly understand what is important to them if we truly want them to hear and understand what is important to us. That’s why the quote from Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, and then be understood” is so widely acknowledged as critical to effective communication.
Next, we have to be able to determine how their goals and our goals can combine to create some common ground going forward. In other words, what would motivate them to hear what we have to say as valuable, and how can we combine what is important to both of us to create a solution-focused conversation about the future?
I do believe it must be about the future versus the past, however, because when we get in a discussion about what happened in the past and who was at fault, it often just becomes a “who’s right” debate where little to nothing is accomplished.
So, now we know what might get in the way of us being heard and understood… we might be in the reactive brain versus the clear, confident, and creative brain… we could just be saying what we think, versus taking into account how they are hearing it… and we may be debating the past versus talking about the future.
If this sounds daunting, it’s because it is, meaning it is certainly easier said than done. Therefore, if you would like me to teach members of your organization and/or family how to communicate so that everyone is heard and understood, feel free to contact me. Until we learn how to speak another’s language, they will be unable to hear and understand what we are wanting them to know.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill