How does this happen? How can two hard working people who are committed to a life and business together get so tangled up in the space of just a few minutes? What causes communications to breakdown so quickly?
The quick answer is different expectations and ideas, but that is too easy an answer. We each have expectations and ideas that are largely unspoken, and that is normal. So what is the real problem?
Could it be that our communication skills are not robust enough to create the understanding essential for communication to be effective? We all want to be understood, especially by those closest to us. The problem is that we often communicate in a manner that makes it difficult for our teammate to ‘want to’ understand.
Communication skills are essential for good teamwork and the same is true in business and marriage. It clearly helps if our teammate owns his or her feelings and expectations and shares them in a manner that is not perceived as an attack.
This can be done when one teammate shares feelings and the impact of a situation without blaming the other. While this is great, there will be times when feelings about a subject aren’t shared this way and our teammate’s concerns feel a lot like an attack.
Skilled customer service reps know that actively listening to convey understanding to upset customers is perhaps the best and easiest way to calm any given situation. Once a customer feels understood, he or she is in a much better frame of mind to resolve the issue. Effective active listening requires the listener repeat back what they heard to the speaker and:
- Signals the listener cares enough to want to understand
- Clarifies the facts
- Eliminates misunderstandings
- Provides the information necessary to create effective solutions
There are 15 behaviors of good active listeners:
1 Listening without criticizing
2. Listening without prejudging
3. Listening without becoming defensive
4. Listening without giving advice unless I am asked
5. Listening without thinking about my reply
6. Letting my teammate complete his/her sentences
7. Letting my teammate finish before stating my view
8. Trying to understand my teammate’s feelings
9. Looking at my teammate while I listen
10. Giving my full attention when my teammate speaks
11. Trying to understand my teammate’s viewpoint
12. Looking for my teammate’s non-verbal messages
13. Repeating back my understanding of both content and feelings
14. Asking, “Did I understand you correctly?” and wait for a reply
15. Asking, “Is there more?” when my teammate finishes talking
Our experience indicates that probably two or three of these listening behaviors are more important to your teammate than the others. Ask your teammate which of these behaviors would make the biggest difference to him or her. Then agree to implement this behavior, if you want to do your part to improve communication.
While effective active listening is not a panacea for all marital problems, it does provide a means to insure that teammates feel understood and have the information needed to create win-win solutions to strengthen their business and marriage.
Alan and Autumn Ray are the founding directors of MarriageTeam, a Vancouver-based nonprofit that provides marriage coaching services to couples looking to work together more effectively to achieve their goals.