I’m always interested in learning how to be a better communicator. The ability to express an idea to a group or just carry on a conversation with someone is a great life skill to possess, and something that can be practiced daily. In my pursuit to improve my communication skills, the following realization has confronted me many times. It’s the truth that not everybody thinks about things or sees the world, the same way I do.
How obvious, right? Everybody knows that! Although that may be the case, what’s interesting is how often I can forget this truth when talking with someone who has a different perspective. When I do forget, I hear my own voice inside my head saying things like:
- “Why don’t they agree what I’m talking about?”
- “Why is this person being difficult?”
- “Do they even know what they’re talking about?”
What I’ve come to learn is that those are the wrong questions to be asking. Those questions devalue the other person’s thoughts, perspective and experience and say more about my on naive assumption that this person should be thinking just like me.
If my goal is to improve my communication skills, the questions I should be asking myself instead are:
- “What background, area of expertise, or perspective are they approaching this situation from?”
- “What do they know that I don’t?”
- “What am I missing?”
These questions assume that the other person or persons bring some knowledge, experience, or belief about the topic that is shaping their thinking. The fun part of a conversation, for me, is to determine what that experience, knowledge or belief is.
By asking myself these questions, it puts me in a place to be open to new thoughts by realizing that, although our thoughts may be different, there is a high probability that I can learn something from this person, even if it’s just learning about their perspective.
Pay attention to the conversations you have in the weeks ahead and be on the lookout for your own internal thoughts that stem from a difference in thinking. Instead of getting frustrated by these differences, cause something to happen in your own mind by considering their thinking try to determine why they think that way. You might just gain a new perspective and learn something in the process.