Posts Tagged 'communication'

Seeing the world through the eyes of others

People act based on the way they see the world. Every single time. Understanding someone else’s story is hard, a job that’s never complete, but it’s worth the effort. —Seth Godin

There is pretty much universal agreement that empathy is a desirable human quality, and it’s an attribute often found in resilient people.

• Empathy is the basis of clear communication. Understanding the view points of others is essential to effective communication in families and work settings.

• Empathy enables us to have deeper and more satisfying relationships. Without it people cannot really understand one another.

• Empathy enriches our lives by opening our minds to the experiences and perspectives of others.

• Empathy decreases the likelihood of unnecessary conflict and even wars.

Given its importance, why is empathy so often difficult to achieve for so many of us?

• We may believe that demonstrating understanding of others’ points of view is the same as agreeing with them.

• We fear that our willingness to fully understand others’ points of view will signal weakness on our part.

• We are aware that empathy opens us to being influenced by others, which, in turn, may create cognitive dissonance that requires us to change our viewpoint and perhaps even our behavior. Put another way, we understand that empathy may be the first step on a slippery slope that will lead us to significant change.

“Tell me a story.”

In my experience the most effective way to see the world through the eyes of others is to invite them to tell us a story about an influential elder, a formative event in their lives, or anything else that seems appropriate.

Better yet, tell others a story from your own life related to the subject at hand and invite them to do the same.

Storytelling is a powerful way to:

• deepen understanding of others’ points of view,

• establish common ground for resolving conflicts and making decisions, and

• strengthen relationships with significant people in our lives.

What practices or tools enable you to create empathy with others?

6 Cs of Resilience

I offer the “6 Cs of resilience” to stimulate your thinking and perhaps guide your actions:

Clarity about values, ideas, goals, and strategies to accomplish those goals. Such clarity will come in and out of focus and require fresh thinking when circumstances change within and around us.

Commitment to persist through difficult times. Resilience sometimes requires doing the thing we don’t want to do but that we know is important.

Communication that seeks first to understand and that is both respectful and assertive. Such communication is particularly challenging when people vigorously disagree with us by asserting values and positions that we believe are irrational and even immoral.

Community to gain clarity, support, guidance, inspiration, and the power of collective action when we are addressing powerful social and economic forces. Dialogue created in community can also help us find and maintain clarity.

Courage to do what is uncomfortable and even frightening. Courage is not the absence of fear, but instead acting in its presence. As someone once said, “Feel the fear and do it anyways.”

Care, beginning with self-care. Self-care means making our physical, emotional, and spiritual health a priority, because if we don’t care for ourselves the other Cs will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. Care also includes, of course, respect for others, especially those with whom we most strongly disagree.

No matter our starting place, the “6Cs” enable us to take well-considered stands about things that are significant to us and to join with others to achieve what we cannot accomplish alone.

Which of the Cs is most important for you at this particular moment in time?

Accept responsibility for improving communication

Photo/Dennis Sparks

“[T]he day came when I made the decision that I would accept 100% responsibility for all misunderstandings in which I am involved. While there have been some painful, costly and frustrating lessons, I have learned something from every misunderstanding and it has made me a better communicator.” —Todd Smith

Leaders’ clarity not only adds intellectual precision to their work, it strengthens communication and improves relationships. “People who are indirect in the communication of their messages, Todd Smith writes, “tend to hint at things, give mixed messages and avoid getting to the point. It’s as if they expect people to be mind readers. What they don’t realize is that their failure to communicate effectively is undermining their ability to build relationships and advance their lives personally and professionally.”

As a way of improving the quality of his communication, Smith decided to accept 100 percent responsibility for all misunderstandings that arose in his life. “This decision to accept responsibility for all my miscommunications forced me to not only focus on clear communication, but it has also improved my ability to identify warning signs where there may be a breakdown in communication,” Smith said. He offers six simple but often neglected processes such as double-checking for clarity and confirming details in writing that minimize the likelihood of misunderstandings and their negative effects on trust within the organization.

Take a moment now to . . .

• identify a way in which you can improve the quality of your communication and an action you will take to that end; and

• consider an aspect of your work in addition to communication in which you are willing to do an experiment by acting as if you have 100 percent responsibility for the outcome. Determine a next action related to this experiment.


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