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The Formula for Effective Communication

“We have two ears and one mouth, so let’s use them proportionally.”  I don’t know who said this originally, but I do know there’s some wisdom in these words – wisdom that leaders need to consider.

Sidebar, Pause, Timeout: Before you read any further.  If you work with me or if you’re related to me, you are not allowed to post a comment to this blog.    (Just kidding, I think..) “I’m a work in progress, like all of you reading this.  We’re growing together.”  Ok, continue on.

Communication, or the lack thereof, can make or break our relationships, our teams, our organizations, and even our communities.

If communication is so important, why are we so bad at it??  I’ll tell you why: Because we like to talk and tell.  We don’t like to listen and ask, we want to talk and tell.  Test it out on your own and see if I’m right – at your next meeting pay attention to the dynamics in the room.  There’s very little dialogue taking place – there are actually multiple monologues taking place.  Someone says what they want to say, people stare at them; they take a breath, someone else jumps in, people stare at them, they take a breath; another person jumps in, says something like “let me piggy back on that” (just to be nice), because whatever they say following this statement has nothing to do what was on the piggy’s back.

So you just spent another hour in a meeting with people talking and telling.  No one was listening and asking.  And IF a question is asked, if it’s not the question the talker/teller wants to discuss, it’s ignored.  By the way you’re lucky if anyone asks a question, because if the leaders are known for talking and telling, people that have something to ask, will stop asking because they consider it a waste of time.

So what’s the Leadership Lesson here?  It’s pretty simple stop talking/telling and start listening/asking.

4 things you (we) can do:

  1. Ask others if it’s ok for you to take notes while their speaking.  It’ll stop you from interrupting them, help you sort out your thoughts & remember what you want to say at a later time.  Oh yea, take notes – don’t doodle.
  2. When someone is finished making a point, repeat it back to them to confirm you heard the correct message.  It shows that you are listening and you value what they say, and you want to get it right. (I gotta work on this one)
  3. Ask open-ended questions that allow others to expand upon their thoughts.  Don’t ask closed-ended or leading questions that take people to where you want to go.
  4. Be willing to NOT BE the “smartest person in the room” – Someone knows what you don’t know.  Be TeachABLE. Give your people the space to express their genius and creativity.

Remember the Formula:

2 ears


1 mouth

= Listening twice as much as you speak.

I think this will help some of us communicate more effectively.   What do you think?

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