Every now and then we get to a point where communication doesn’t work. Our interaction becomes contaminated. Language is a virus says Laurie Anderson in Home of the brave. This rings a bell to our own experiences.
In communications we want to maintain a positive flow. Our interaction involves triggers and reactions. Let’s look at them as a mechanism. Just like my hand is a tool that helps me along the day, I want my communications with others to work for me.
I need to know my tools and remember to use them. Three simple words and one expression that we often use: Listen, Ask, Suggest and Take action. They crystallize a set of ideas. As we interact, they serve as our tool.
Assuming we understand each other’s words, we need to let them into our brains. We need to Listen. When is it that we usually find it easiest to listen? For most of us I dare to assume it would be music. When you are listening to someone else, it could be an interesting experiment to listen to the music in the words you hear.
Ask. Showing the fact that you are listening has many forms. The question moves the conversation forward whether by establishing a sense of mutual understanding or even making progress with ideas. Rephrasing your companion’s words is also a sort of question: “did I hear you OK?”
Questions can be tricky though. You don’t want to give the impression of doubt when the intention is to build trust.
Sometimes the question itself promotes an idea that both of you are interested in exploring. Our interaction involves a form of negotiation. Suggest
After gaining information by going back and forth with the conversation, ideas that come up inform our progress.
These ideas are like roads that lead to various destinations. You reach an intersection and make a choice. You know what needs to be done: Take action. If you need to do it yourself this is almost easy. If you want someone else to act for you, you’ve come full circle.
Our goal is to nurture communications that last. Take the first letters of each of the four steps we’ve just gone through and this is what you get: L - A – S - T. It always seems simple as an idea. But as we go through the day we want to remember, to listen, to ask, to suggest and eventually, to take action.