Think You Know How to Communicate? Think Again!

04/29/2015 11:12 am ET | Updated Jun 29, 2015

Talk is cheap, but not for the reasons I once thought.

It's too slim and ignores so many more important facets of communication. I've learned, if anything, that there is much to learn! To unravel and expose the true reasons for how you say why you say what you say when you do.


I truly have thought myself a good communicator. Articulation in words (spoken or written) has been an easy "gift" of mine in many ways. I've been validated and rewarded for it. Yet still, I realize that I am not that great at communicating. I would venture to guess very few of us are, despite what we may tell ourselves.

Recently, I was given some "guidelines for healthy communicating." Upon first reaching my hand out for the print offs, I thought to myself. "Ya, I know, own your thoughts, say "I feel...." or "I hear you saying.... blah blah..." I was a bit right, but it is so much more. You may very well know better than someone. You may adamantly disagree on principle.

The main point I learned even if that feels true to me, communication isn't about convincing MY TRUTH, but hearing the other perspective, summarizing it, and then giving some introspection on what that makes me feel and why. Historically, I would react, respond, and make my understanding of the subject matter a debate, or a debate until someone bowed or conceded. This doesn't mean screaming. I hate screaming, it can be in calm tones, or deflection, passive aggression, sarcasm... etc.


More in simplicity, which is a hard thing to grasp. Simplify? Be less articulate? Don't make your point the second you realize your point is the hook, line sinker?! Yes. All of us are so busy prepping the next thought, healing the hurt from a backhanded jab that we lose sight, and point.

The rules I thought I understood:

There are two roles. A "Speaker" and the "Listener."

You can only be ONE of the two roles at a time. (see number 2 and 3)
It is helpful to use a "speaking symbol." No, I'm not kidding.

The Speaking Symbol: a physical item which could be a talking stick as was used be the American Indian while communicating, but which in fact could be any small item that you choose and which symbol sizes that the one holding it is the ONLY one allowed to talk and who passes the symbol on ONLY when finished talking).

2. The Role of the "Speaker" is to do the following:
Picks the conversation topic.
Speaks only from the ownership of SELF. "I feel." "I am." "I want." "I have."
Cannot speak for or about the Inquirer. All words and thoughts should be framed only from his/her vantage point.
Tips: No blame. No shame. No sarcasm. No prescribing emotion. No assumptions. No judgments outside oneself.

3. The Role of the "Listener" is to do the following:
Remains a silent, active listener. S/he does not interrupt, comment or ask questions.
Speaks only after the initiator verbally stops speaking and hands off "the symbol."
Then while passing the symbol back and forth:
Summarize what s/he heard the Speaker say.
Ask clarifying questions only.
Tips: No non-verbal communications. (eye-roll, guffaw, sighs, hand movements, negativity.) Clear, direct, genuine questions only.

Sound Easy? Familiar? Yep, I thought so too. I realized quickly... if we all communicated THIS way, and there was a "family-feud" style buzzer button pushed each time a rule is broken, the world would be a mere cacophony of buzzers and swear words. All of us bring in so many "habits" and defense mechanisms. We all have triggers we didn't think existed. Most importantly is that you are not a bad communicator if this doesn't work at first. It's NOT natural...Yet!


Stay open. Try having a learning mind and you may discover how unbelievable you can be if you truly understand, take the time, and hear what is being said. You may learn something new about yourself if you say and own what you feel, but also listen with respect to what the other feels is their truth, and how they say it. Who knew?

Godspeed. Set low expectations as first. Practice. Love. Listen.

So what I think you heard me say is.....Go listen. Ha.