Words have the power to persuade and inform. They make or break relationships, incite action and reaction, and sadly, words – have the power to discriminate, divide and wound. I’ve seen great communicators get what they want, and I’ve watched poor communicators lose what they need. People who lack the ability to communicate effectively are denied the basic need of “feeling understood”. This is particularly true of the most disadvantaged in our society, the immigrants, the poor and the uneducated.
Back in my school days I witnessed this form of “discrimination” first-hand as I watched an Asian student sit quietly at the back of the class, avoiding the professor’s glance. I worked with her in a study group and we always had brilliant conversations about the content. She was very smart yet she confessed she was failing half of her courses. With English as her second language, she knew in her head what she wanted to say, but she couldn’t get it out so it was easier for her to just be quiet.
Have you ever felt this? Where you know what you need to say, but you just can’t get it out? Some people, when you have a conversation with them, are brilliant at pulling the good stuff out, while others are just as talented at making you feel like it is easier to remain quiet. This is especially true when a conversation turns emotional. Our ability to think rationally and articulate needs seems so difficult. It isn’t until we step away do we think about all of those great things we could have said!
When we choose to engage in a conversation with someone - a colleague, a partner or our kids - we have a responsibility to pull out the best in that person. We can do this by practicing “IOU” (Interest, Openness, Understanding). Demonstrate INTEREST by being present and inquiring more deeply into their needs. Practice OPENNESS by listening to them without judgment and being curious about their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Finally, convey UNDERSTANDING by restating what you heard and understood using your own words. It is only once the other person has felt understood, that you can begin to invite them into your perspective . Without understanding, words are tools that can hurt or heal. How will you use them?
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
Co-Founder of Juice Inc.
Vice President, Business Development
Business Development, Juice USA
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