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Connections, Perceptions and Listening with Intent

“The outer world is a reflection of the inner world. Other people’s perception of you is a reflection of them; your response to them is an awareness of you.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Communication can be tricky due to the human elements involved. We all know it’s the facts that hold the truth to any event or subject under discussion. Problems arise when we add our perceptions of the facts to the equation.

Understanding Perceptions

Studies are showing how visual memory can influence our perceptions; it’s possible for mental images to alter the way we see things. It’s said that we do not see the world as it is but as we are, that’s because many factors go into the truth that we aren’t.

Our mind is always interpreting what it sees, being influenced by our experiences, values, and general perceptions, which can project themselves in how we process what we witness. Adjunct Professor Jennifer Lombardo says, “Perception’s effect on the communication process is all about how the same message can be interpreted differently by different people. Distortions, such as stereotypes, projections and halo effects, all affect worker relationships and productivity.” (1)

While still a firefighter, I remember how listening to witnesses at the scene of many emergencies tell their stories. Each person honestly relating what they had seen and heard, and how often they would each describe something different.

The Power of Listening with Intent

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” – M. Scott Peck

Just as we may believe we see the world as it is, we can also believe we understand what we’re hearing when in fact, we’re filtering conversations through our perceptions and past experiences. Focusing intently on what a person is saying without simultaneously thinking of responding takes practice.

When you’re intentionally paying close attention to the person speaking with you, listening for what’s coming from the heart, you’re experiencing an emotional identification, along with feelings of compassion, thus gaining some insight into their world.

Stephen R. Covey would say, “seek to understand before being understood.”

Sharing emotional as well as intellectual connections with the people you work with are a part of interpersonal relationships, communications are on a much higher and deeper level than the usually friendly “surface conversations” many coworkers tend to have. Practicing some empathic listening not only helps us to understand what is said but validates the person speaking to us.

Teams with interpersonal skills will often share a special connection enabling them to deliver higher quality service; their deeper understanding of one another equips them with the self-awareness to manage their own emotions as well as each other’s. We often describe the results of good interpersonal relations as “firing on all cylinders,” functioning on this relational level can be most intuitive.

Author Zero Dean says, “Not everyone with a problem needs you to solve it. Sometimes all a person just needs to feel like they’re being heard. Listening without judging can be more effective than injecting your opinions or trying to solve a problem that doesn’t have an easy answer.”

Communicating and Connecting

We aren’t persuaded by what others say, but by what we understand, keep that in mind when you’re speaking to others. Effective communication is all about connecting the speaker with the listener.

Ineffective communication undermines your efforts and your team’s potential on so many levels. Communicating in a way that gets everyone on the same page enables you to stand out among other leaders and elevates your respectability as well as your credibility.

Becoming a More Effective Communicator

Makes you a more effective leader, eliminating unnecessary misunderstandings and connecting on a deeper level with your family friends and your business associates. You’ll effectively navigate those difficult conversations and challenging problems, motivating your people with clear and concise language, so their collective efforts deliver the results you’re looking for, so don’t just communicate in a manner that gets your message across but in a way that changes lives. Dr. David Burns remarks, “What most people really want is to be listened to, respected, and understood. The moment people see that they are being understood, they become more motivated to understand your point of view.”

Four simple points that can help you better communicate and connect:

1) Put Down the Phone– Enough said.

2) Understand that We all have More in Common than We Realize Learn to be honest with yourself and with others about yourself. There’s simply no way around it; this requires vulnerability. Honesty is the best policy because it resonates with others, making a connection.

3) Be Genuinely Interested in People for who They Are Connecting with people requires speaking into their world so; Learn to understand their point of view without critiquing or debating, just listen. Ask questions to help you discover who they are; everyone has a story to tell. The more you listen to others, the more you’ll learn about yourself.

4) Be Positive and Affirming Becoming an honest encourager opens doors to relationships faster than anything I know. Affirming people begins with dignity and self-respect, who people are, and what they think and feel matters. Keeping your cell phone out of sight and maintaining eye contact during a conversation holds their attention and is affirming because it sends a message to the other person that you’re “all in.”

(1) Jennifer Lombardo is an adjunct professor of marketing at Rowan University and a social media marketing consultant.

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