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Say This, Not That : Listening Tips to Improve Communication

Contributor: Cash Nickerson

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Communication is one of the building blocks of any team’s success. Considering the greatest communicators in business, academic, and social settings, I find they have one thing in common: They are all great listeners.

Listening seems to be the ultimate differentiator. People think of great leaders as speakers and writers , but up close, they speak less than you might think. They ask, and listen.

There are many phrases that hinder progress in communication. Such phrases tend to introduce ego and emotion into the conversation. Replacing these phrases with better alternatives is a simple way to make progress and accomplish more together.

As we listen to someone, we all, unknowingly and unintentionally, introduce phrases that aren’t constructive, but make us feel better. Here are some Say this, Not that examples you can implement in your conversations that will help you avoid these destructive phrases and make your communication more efficient and effective.

  • Say “I understand,” not “Relax,” or “Calm down.”

When conversations get heated and we are listening to someone rant, we may be tempted to say, “Relax,” or “Calm down.” This tends to amplify emotions. The speaker thinks you’re criticizing them for being overly emotional. Instead, say nothing or simply, “I understand.”

Say “I understand,” not “Relax,” or “Calm down.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “Hey, I did a poor job explaining my point. Let me try again,” not “You don’t get it.”

This is common in technology circles and can put the listener on the defense. Telling someone they don’t get it is immediately combative. Instead, admit you could to a better job explaining your point and try again.

Say “Hey, I did a bad job explaining my point. Let me try again,” not “you don’t get it.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “I agree,” or “great idea,” not “that’s what I said.”

If you said it and they say the same thing, what difference does it make whose idea it was? It is just an ego battle over credit, which adds nothing to the communication except tension. Why not just say, “I agree,” or “Great idea.”

Say “I agree,” or “great idea,” not “that’s what I said.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “Let me put this a different way,” not “You’re not listening.”

Anything that is explicitly or implicitly critical will get in the way of communication progress. If you don’t feel they are getting your point, try “Let me put it a different way.”

Say “Let me put this a different way,” not “You’re not listening.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “I was thinking,” or “I was wondering,” not “actually.”

When you are listening to someone and then say, “Actually,”  you are correcting what they said, which may sound condescending. For a milder and more modest way to give your take, say “I was thinking,” or “I was wondering.”

Say “I was thinking,” or “I was wondering,” not “actually.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “What should we do about that?” not “I know” or “I thought of that.”

If you know, good. But keep it to yourself if you want to make progress in communication. “I know” is defensive in nature. To make progress in a conversation say, “What should we do about that?”

Say “What should we do about that?” not “I know” or “I thought of that.” Click To Tweet
  • Say “I agree,” not “of course.”

“Of course” tells speakers they are saying the obvious. “I agree” reinforces and advances the conversation

Say “I agree” not “of course.” Click To Tweet

Say this, not that” phrases are designed to reduce ego and tension in conversation and communication. As a listener, you will help conversations progress by avoiding phrases and words that cause shields to go up and people to get defensive.

How you respond when you are listening and learning to use phrases that make communication more efficient and effective is critical to your networking advancement.

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LISTENING AS A MARTIAL ART takes readers through a progressive how-to journey, helping them achieve new listening “belts” along the way.  Nickerson explains, “You won’t become a listening champion overnight, but you can get better every day and move your rank up rapidly.  I wrote this book with the goal of helping readers become black-belt listeners.

 

cash nickersonCash Nickerson is the author of Listening as a Martial Art. A licensed attorney in five states, his career has spanned over 30 years. Cash’s previous books include STAGNATION: Understanding the New Normal in Employment and BOOMerangs: Engaging the Aging Workforce in America.

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