“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~ Robert McCloskey

“Seek first to understand and then be understood” is an instruction first delivered by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s message is a simple but powerful one. Too often we enter into communications with others with pre-conceived assumptions or notions about what the other person’s expectations, ideas or judgements will be.
 
Rarely are communications entered into without a predetermined idea of the response we are seeking or expecting. This does little but make communication more complex and susceptible to misunderstanding.
 
Studies into interpersonal communication have continually discovered that three core qualities foster effective communication. These qualities are defined as: 

  1. Genuineness;
  2. Respect and
  3. Empathy. 

By incorporating these qualities into your everyday interactions with others, you can ensure that your relationships and communications become increasingly authentic, valid and meaningful.
 
Genuineness
 
To be genuine in communication is to be open, honest and self-expressive. The degree to which you behave in this way is the degree to which you’ll be able to significantly relate to another. A conversation devoid of genuineness sees people conceal their thoughts, values or motives. Concealment can lead to defensive responses and ultimately minimal connection between people.
 
Of course, it is neither advisable nor appropriate to be completely self-expressive in all situations. Genuine communication means engaging in sincere, honest and responsible conversations. It means accepting yourself and expressing who that is.
 
Reflection:
 
Take a moment to reflect on the relationships in your life, both professional and personal.

  • In which relationships do you feel the most genuine?
  • In which relationships do you feel the least genuine?
  • What is it about your most genuine relationships that encourage you to express more of who you are? 

Respect
 
Respectful communication is communication that values the other person. When you engage in respectful conversation you appreciate the other person’s separateness and self-identity. To facilitate respectful communication:
 
Show consideration for personal boundaries. Avoid asking questions that are overly personal or intrusive. We often show this respect to colleagues and acquaintances but can fail to do so with our children or other family members.
 
Don’t impose your personal values onto others. Appreciate differences in other’s values and beliefs.
 
Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume someone is thinking or feeling a particular way simply because that would be your natural response or reaction. Always check with them.
 
Empathy
 
Empathy exists on a continuum between apathy and sympathy (see below):
 
APATHY                         EMPATHY                                           SYMPATHY
 
e.g. “I don’t care”            e.g. “Looks like you feel down today”   e.g. “You poor thing…”
 
Under-involvement                                 <>                              Over-involvement
 
Effective communication means showing genuine care and concern for somebody. It does not mean identifying so strongly with another’s situation that it becomes debilitating or difficult for you to manage. Empathy means viewing the world through another’s person’s eyes. It requires abandoning self-focused communication for authentic connection and understanding.
 
The more you develop your communication skills the greater the possibility for genuine conversations based on honesty and respect. It is these conversations that have the power to influence your life.
 
Interactions based on genuine connection and consideration lead to improved understanding. This, in turn maximises the likelihood of successful communication that is not only authentic but leads to results. Increase your professional effectiveness by using your communication skills to identify the expectations of others and express your needs clearly and succinctly.
 
Source: www.mentalhealthacademy.com.au