Why is Communication so darn difficult? What can I do right now to make it easier?
George Bernard Shaw is one of my favourite playwrights. Not only does he have a “wicked” sense of humour, he shares a unique, and somewhat surprising quality with Mick Jagger. While Mick attended the London School of Economics, Shaw actually co-founded it! Both men have made enormous contributions to the field of communication, albeit in different ways! One of my favourite and useful quotes of Shaw is that, ” the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished“.
So true, but why is this?
One of the main barriers to effective communication is our ability to actually hear what another says. We often listen through the filter of who we think we are. What??? Who we identify with is often the role that we are “wearing” or “presenting” at the time, although quite unconsciously. What I hear through my role as a father, may be entirely different than what I hear wearing the mask of a son. This may be even more relevant at work where we wear many “role” masks. We are often so concerned with successfully playing the role as manager or colleague, we only attend to the message we find serves our purpose at the time.
So what can you do? Try this, in your next conversation. Let’s keep the stakes low and start with a good friend. As you listen to what your friend is saying to you, become aware of what role you perceive yourself as identifying with. Who are you being? What mask are you wearing ? We are so used to wearing these role-playing masks that we usually forget we are wearing them. Here’s the important, and scary, part. As you become aware of your role, let it just drop away. Let it be there if need be, but don’t identify with it. Remove the elastic band holding the mask on and let it fall away. Be the person behind the mask and just let hearing happen without the filter of the mask getting in the way. Try, just for today. This type of deep listening becomes very therapeutic for both people involved in the conversation. Not only will you be able to understand the message more fully, but you will also absorb the feeling underneath the content of the message. The person you are with will not only feel heard, but understood, and appreciated. This is where true hearing takes place transforming both the speaker, the listener and the relationship. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.