Friday, May 30, 2008

"Communication Lessons From the Deaf" - one week in

I've been thinking a lot about the communication lessons post I did earlier in the week, and the article that inspired it. I've been trying to employ the principles and become a better listener and communicator. Here are the basic lessons:

  1. Look people in the eye when engaging in conversation
  2. Don't interrupt
  3. Say what you mean as simply as possible
  4. Stay focused
They sound simple, but are very difficult to implement, especially when you've developed deep habits of multitasking, jumping to conclusions, and talking around a subject. Here are some specific things I'm doing to try to implement the lessons.

I am trying very hard to hear people out, to let them finish their thoughts (and even allow a little silence afterward) before I talk. I'm finding this yields a very different conversation, one with longer statements, but less misunderstanding and frustration, like the article says.

I've taken a couple of steps to try to stay focused. I do a lot of my work on the phone. When I'm on a call now, I leave my desk and sit in a reading chair. In other words--I leave the computer, which is the biggest multitasking temptation out there. I also refrain from taking notes till a phone call is over. This is quite difficult for me. My notes are a bit of a mess, but I'm learning that hearing and absorbing everything that's said is better than having perfect notes--since perfect notes by their nature can't capture everything in a dialogue.

But the hardest by far is #3. Saying what you mean. In that I envy my former boss, a Swede, who was very direct and "crisp," to use his term. Even though he sometimes could rub you the wrong way, you never, ever were unclear about what he wanted, what he thought, or what he meant to say.

So I've still got to work on that.

I'll report on progress again next week.

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