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Hear What I Mean, Not What I Say

Communicating Effectively

Becky Wolfe, Facilitator-Consultant


This is something I heard my parents say from time to time. Especially if there was a miscommunication or one of them took what the other said in a different way than it was intended. Each of us has a particular form of communication. Communicating effectively allows us to interact with flexibility, skill, and responsibility. Talking does not equal communication. We hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half, and remember only half.


To have any communication, there is a speaker and there is a listener – both are required. Who has the primary responsibility for effective verbal communication? In a recent survey, those polled believe the speaker has the responsibility, and this attitude is mirrored in our behavior as listeners. Still, research tells us that “listening” is the primary communication activity.


Have you ever needed clarification on an email or a text message? Maybe you interpreted what was said in a different way than what it was intended. That can get us into hot water, whether you are the writer or the recipient. Using email or text to communicate important matters is not always the best way to communicate. You can’t see facial expressions or body language, and you can’t hear inflection or tone. It doesn’t allow for a “speaker” or “listener.” Just be aware of the pitfalls of this type of communication.



I am not always the best listener because my learning style jumps to “How can I fix this?” I try to come up with a solution. Effective listening is a learned behavior and one I continue to work on daily. Listening is more than just “hearing.” That is just the first part. Other parts are just as important.


a. Interpretation – interpreting what you have heard leads to understanding or misunderstanding.

b. Evaluation – weigh the information and decide how you will use it.

c. Reaction – based on what you heard and how you evaluated, you then act on it.


Think while you listen and learn to eliminate distractions by concentrating on the ideas the speaker is presenting rather than pretending to listen. Learn to control your immediate responses and listen without judging. You can assume later after you have heard all the information given.


Communication is essential in everything we do. Exercising leadership in today’s society requires us to be great communicators to make progress on issues we care about.


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