Where’s my sophistication? I was sure I put it somewhere safe.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 16:18

By Dr Samantha Johnson

“The biggest single problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  - George Bernard Shaw

How ironic is it, that each of us claims to be an effective communicator and yet each of us knows that most of us are not!  Admitting to having communication flaws is a little like admitting to being a tailgater on the road.  We all do it but we rarely admit to it.

I’ve been in various social and professional engagements lately and have been reminded of some of our greatest and most concerning communication flaws.  As you read through them, resist the temptation to recognise them in others.  Be honest with yourself and consider how often you make these mistakes and what you can do to improve your professional and social communication skills.

Trapped in self-interest

The tendency to engage in conversation only to offer comments of self-interest.  It’s the failure to truly hear what someone has said and engage with their comment, their thoughts and the information that they have presented. It’s being trapped in ‘me’. 

It’s interpreting what another person has said in relevance to self rather than to them.

Conversations like this often are shallow and short and move from one issue of self-interest to another. 

They may look like people talking to each other but they are really just talking at each other.

Lack of intelligent curiosity

This is the dinner party killer.  Statements presented to generate conversation, but that quickly fall flat because of a lack of intellectual curiosity and engagement.  This looks like a distinctive lack of questioning. 

What caused so many of us to lose the skill of asking intelligent questions?

This can go hand in hand with excessive self-interest.  We don’t think to ask questions of others because we’re trapped in thoughts about ourselves. We like to make statements that show our values or our knowledge. 

Asking questions shows a focus on another person rather than on ourselves.  Social intelligence versus pride…what dominates you?

Next time you’re at a dinner party, monitor the questions being asked.  You may be surprised to hear very few. 

Confusion between fact, opinion and assumption

How common is this! Really guys, opinions are fine, sometimes they are fascination, but they’re not fact!

The old adage, ‘I think therefore I am..’ does not mean, ‘I think therefore I am RIGHT!’   

Facts are based on empirical evidence.  Opinions are clusters of experiences, assumptions and values.  Assumptions by their very nature cannot be factual. 

Our conversation skills would improve dramatically if we got this sorted.

Unmanaged body language

I was at a social function recently with a large group of people. I found myself engaged in conversation with a bloke who had a tendency to roll his eyes. Each time he rolled his eyes, I re-filled my wine glass!  And yes – I over indulged just a little!

Body language screams messages to others and must be managed.  Sophisticated communicators always manage their body language. 

Eye rolling over the age of 12 is a big no no.

Lack of empathy

And last but not least, we still haven’t got this one sorted. 

When someone’s upset or emotional don’t talk about yourself or tell them to feel differently.  Listen.  And then listen some more. 

We all need to talk things through at times, we need to vent and we need to be heard. 

Once again, turn your focus to the person who is seeking your understanding. 

If you’d rather not care about another individual at that point in time, well, give that some thought too. 

But if someone is struggling with something, listen to them, don’t turn the conversation to a more comfortable place for you.

Communication.  It’s not just about talking.  It’s also about thinking and listening. To be a sophisticated communicator we need to be thoughtful and caring.  We need to know when to think of ourselves and when to think of others. 

It’s easy to talk.  It’s not easy to be a good communicator.  

Next time you’re talking to someone check in with yourself and ask yourself if a positive, engaging, sophisticated connection took place, or if you simply stroked your ego.  Am I being too tough?  Perhaps.  But please don’t roll your eyes.  Be reflective and thoughtful, I’m pretty sure there’s room for improvement in all of us.

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