Beyond active listening

We have to provide training on, not only active listening, but Tough Active Receiving.  In other words, it's not just a passive job of listening but rather it is an  active job of receiving.  Listening is passive, but Receiving is Active.

It is like a batter's attempts to hit the pitcher's strategic deliveries approaching him with all the tricks and twists of the thrust within them.  As Receivers, we have to learn how to receive communication however it might be sent, and interpret that information  to our benefit -- even turning possible or implied offenses into favourable ammunition.

If the boss or a peer tells us we do a lousy job, we should re-learn to "take it like a man" (or a woman).  It may be that we haven't done such a hot job after all.  If we think or know we did a good job, then we ask constructive questions (Smart Questioning) to get feedback about unclear and incomplete statements -- before reacting; for example:  "Oh, I'm sorry you feel that way, can you tell me what exactly you mean by a lousy job?" Active Receiving includes all of the activities that come into play in Interpreting and Understanding.

Not everybody who talks to us has gone through a communication training.  Even those who have don't all come out of a seminar transformed to perfection. We should be so lucky!  We all have to begin the work of  applying what we learned  after the training session.


How do we communicate now?

Poorly.  The majority of people communicate at a very shallow surface level. And that includes those in senior management.  Studies have shown that most people communicate at 50% effectiveness -- even in a two-way communication.  I venture to say that it is often less than that.

Just think how often you are frustrated by your boss, your peers, your spouse, your children... on a daily basis.  How many times are you misunderstood?  How many times do you have to explain that you didn't mean something the way it was perceived or received by your listener?  How many times at work have you been interrupted to never have had the chance to get back to that important discussion where you wanted to clear yourself of a misunderstanding? Often, even the explanation of a misunderstanding is misunderstood or received with arguments -- sometimes angrily, sometimes silently. 

How many times have you kept silent rather than risking offending someone as you would genuinely try to find out where a misunderstanding came from, or try to explain your position.

In the national bestseller  "That's not what I meant!" by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., the author speaks of the linguistics in communication.  "Linguistics", she says, "is the academic discipline devoted to understanding how language works. Relationships are made, maintained and broken through talk".  She explains how people learn to use language, as they grow up, with different ethnic, religious or class backgrounds, in different parts of the country, even as different genders (male and female have different ways of talking or communicating).

The novelist E. M. Forster said this: "a pause in the wrong place, an intonation misunderstood, and a whole conversation went awry." 

In a telephone call to an associate, one day,  I left a message on his answering machine to call me back.  Somehow, he had been given a phone number which was a business line used for a specific on-going project, located in another part of the building; I had subsequently explained to him that he should not use this number and gave him the one he should call.
However on this particular day, when I called him, I was temporarily working from the first number location and left the message on the tape to call me on that number, at that particular time.  When he called me back a few moments later, he called on the other line which was in the other location.  What did that tell me? That he did not "listen" to the message on his answering machine.  (Just like many don't read their memos or emails).

This was indeed confirmed later. But, I could have "assumed" he did not listen properly.  If I hadn't found it important enough to pursue the incident in order to clarify, I might have wrongly perceived this of him.  It could have been that he was not careless at all, but that the tape on the answering machine broke (this was in the older days) or ended before the explanation about the phone number came on.  This would have disclosed my wrong assumption, which would have meant that if I don't know something, I should not assume.
Of course we don't always deduce and analyze our conversations in such details during our daily activities.  Who has the time?  However being aware of these possibilities, and including this awareness in our philosophical way of thinking, (thinking before receiving) will help us operate in a realm of understanding at all times -- a second nature as it were.


"Effective Communication - Understanding the Word 'Argument' "

Many people have the wrong concept of the word "argument".  I remember counseling someone on a marriage problem.  The husband was debating some points presented to him.  When I mentioned his "arguing" the point, he straightened up and defensively said, "I'm not arguing" and expressed his feelings about his interpretation of the word. To him "argument" was akin to fight.  His understanding of the word triggered a misinterpretation.

When two people argue, it is not fighting.  At least it shouldn't be.  Scientists argue; they present arguments all the time.  So do lawyers.  Arguments are a perfectly healthy part of communication. However, we have misunderstood "arguing" for so long because of our poor communication practices, that we have made it a misnomer.  We don't know how to argue anymore. Argument is based on logical debate. 

There is an excellent tape, "How to Argue and Win Every Time," (Audio Renaissance), by  Gerry Spence, who has been practicing law for over forty years and who is widely regarded as one of the most skilled courtroom advocates in America.  The author shows how to apply his techniques at work, in court, everywhere, every day.  He says that the success of a good argument lies in the preparation. 

Often, the one presented with an argument does not want to give into it because he or she knows that on the basis of logic his/her argument would lose.  To avoid interaction with "argument" the Receiver either agrees, gives lip service or terminates the discussion.  If the discussion does not terminate (i.e., the Sender continues the argument dialogue), the Receiver may then lose control, because of the lack of communication ability and/or facts, and start a word fight -- or even a fist fight -- which is where the word "argument" gets its bad reputation.


The success of a good argument lies in the preparation.  So, next time you face an argument with someone, hold off and go prepare first!  In other words no one can jump into an argument without having some facts and realities on hand. This process would eliminate a lot of problems in marriage as well as in business. /dmh

For the 296 pages Hard Copy book

For the E-book in digital format for immediate download