Communication is not a skill. It’s actually many skills layered one upon another. Listening effectively, expressing yourself, focus, reflection, clarity…and the list can go on and on. Just google communication skills list and see!
One of the most important skills in communication is your ability to filter information you receive and reflect on this. Our internal filters decide what we pay attention to and what we ignore when communicating with others. What we pay attention to can fuel our understanding of more than just the message we are getting. It also affects our understanding of the relationship.
Your skill at filtering information can change depending on what is going on around you or distractions. These can come in many forms such as
- emotional state
- outward distractions such as noise, kids, phone calls
- being tired
- previous negative or positive experience with the person
- nerves (ie with boss or a crush)
- bad mood or a really good mood
- your beliefs
- expectations of the person or the situation
- difference in personal style (some are bold, shy, withdrawn or in your face)
- self-protection mode (fear, rejection)
- situational (at work, late at night)
- message medium (email, phone, letters)
And it goes on and on. You can see how we can so easily get our messages distorted when communicating with someone.
I’ve been talking a fair bit lately about our inner stories and how they affect our daily lives. Well, here’s some interesting news. Our inner conversations are another great big and very influential distraction. These stories can distort messages received with the best of the distractions!
Think about it. How often have you thought things like;
- if only I hadn’t/had said…
- I wish they had said…
- why didn’t they do…
- why didn’t I do…
Let’s face it, the person we are trying to reach or who is trying to reach us, is probably dealing with their own distractions. Perhaps they don’t respond as quickly as we like or don’t seem interested. What do we often do? We internalize that, create a wonderfully negative story about it and go off to stew in our silent, inner, fuming that probably has no real relevance to what the other person is thinking or doing anyway.
Now you have a new distraction in your communication; negative emotions and imagery. Hmm..congratualations? Don’t think so.
Communication is tough enough without allowing our filters to help us create negative inner stories that add to the difficulty level. Keep it open, assume nothing and reflect on what messages you are receiving. Be gentle with yourself and others. Be aware of your filters and stand in the truth of them. If you are feeling in a bad mood and just not in a place to focus; ask the person trying to talk to you to give you a couple of minutes and tell them why. You own your filter; it doesn’t own you. Pay attention to it.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato