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How to Always Be Listened to and Understood

How to Always Be Listened to and Understood

Sometimes it can be challenging to put my phone away when I’m spending time with friends. We all know how addicting social media can be, but it doesn’t make it any less rude to the person sitting across from me telling me about a problem they’re facing. Even saying, “I’m just replying to this email, but I swear I’m listening,” is a barrier to effective communication.

There have been times when, even without my phone, I realize I’m only half-listening to someone. It’s a distracting world, and sometimes it can be hard to compartmentalize all the things on your mental to-do list and just be present. But, that doesn’t justify listening with one ear. Is sending a perfectly timed gif as a response to a text really worth losing a friendship over? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Everyone talks, but very few of us listen to understand.

An inability to fully grasp what someone is telling us hinders productive and successful communication even when we’re paying attention. Aside from all the distractions and confusion the world, in general, presents us with, we still have differences that make it challenging to hear someone and understand them.

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to work with someone to understand their point of view. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, but we should give the same respect we want when seeking a meaningful discussion. With more arguments than ever over gender and culture, how do we improve ourselves?

Voicing an opinion can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. You don’t want to risk losing a friendship or relationship because you couldn’t see eye-to-eye, but knowing what barriers you may inadvertently be creating is important.

These are the six most common barriers we face in communication:

Even if you are the ideal friend, when it comes to leaving your phone behind and being fully present when someone needs you, you’re not immune to communication barriers. I don’t just mean the common language barrier though it’s certainly a valid one. In fact, there is a whole list of barriers that prevent us from communicating concisely. The following is a list of 6 barriers we should all make a point to focus on for effective communication:

Perceptual barriers: different viewpoints, bias and stereotypes

Perceptual barriers are internal. If you go into a situation thinking the person you are talking to isn’t going to understand or take interest in what you have to say, you may end up subconsciously sabotaging your effort to make your point. You will employ language that is sarcastic, dismissive, or even obtuse, thereby alienating your conversational partner.[1]

Attitudinal barriers: lack of interest or relevance

Attitudinal barriers to communication may result from personality conflicts, poor management, resistance to change, or a lack of motivation. Effective receivers of messages should attempt to overcome their own attitudinal barriers to facilitate effective communication.[2]

Attitudes are usually formed by an individual’s opinion and can be difficult to change. When this barrier overrides the focus on professionalism in the workplace, it can be next to impossible to work together.

This barrier is not an easy one to break down. It’s important to be aware of your attitude, and try to understand the root of it. It will be a slow-going process, but allowing yourself to change your attitude will be worth it in the end.

Language barriers: jargon and word choice

Even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used may act as a barrier if not fully understood by the receiver. For example, a message that includes a lot of specialist jargon and abbreviations will not be understood by a receiver who is not familiar with the terminology used.

Aim to translate all relevent documents, use an interpreter when necessary, talk to your company about providing language classes and try to se visual methods of communication as often as possible.

Emotional barriers: bottling emotions out of refusal to express emotion

We are often taught to fear the words coming out of our mouths, as in the phrase “anything you say can and will be used against you.” Overcoming this fear is difficult, but necessary. The trick is having full confidence in what you are saying and your qualifications in saying it. People often pick up on insecurity.

By believing in yourself and what you have to say, you will be able to communicate clearly without becoming overly involved in your emotions.

Cultural barriers: values and beliefs.

Different cultures, whether they be a geographical culture or simply the work culture of a company, can hinder developed communication. Specifically, if the two cultures clash. There are even subtypes of cultural barriers such as generational and status.

Generational barriers involve different age groups having different approaches to work, which leads to conflicts when older workers think younger workers are slackers. It is especially prevalent today with the negative view of “millennials.”

Status barriers are about people acclimating to workplaces where seniority and status are emphasized. Often they have difficulty adapting to fluid work environments where job titles are not emphasized, and production methods do not always follow a predetermined set of guidelines.

In these cases, it’s important to find common ground.

Gender barriers: different experiences of men and women

Even where men and women share equal stature, knowledge, and experience, differing communication styles may prevent them from working together effectively. Gender barriers are inherent and related to gender stereotypes, or the ways that men and women are taught to behave as children.

To overcome gender barriers within the workplace, educate your team about gender bias. Bias is often embedded in stereotypes and can be hard to detect. Once found, there are possibilities for change.

It is also important to create safe “Identity Workspaces.” Companies should encourage women to build communities in which similarly positioned women can discuss their feedback, compare notes and emotionally support one another’s learning. Support will prevent feeling vulnerable and help women want to share willingly without fear of judgment.

Let’s take a look at a real life example…

In the U.S., 2016 was an election year. This meant, as a nation, we were faced with trying to overcome all six of these barriers on a daily basis, especially since the two main candidates where opposing genders.

The unfunny joke here is that each barrier has a snowball affect.

Think about it: the frustration resulting from struggling with one barrier is enough to create a solid attitudinal barrier once you’ve decided you don’t care what anyone else has to say.

Once you’ve created an attitudinal barrier and stopped caring what someone has to say, you, in turn, cause a perceptual barrier and potentially a cultural barrier. You’ve just stereotyped yourself into a state of mind that is too self-centered and prejudice to listen to what anyone has to say if it doesn’t directly line up with what you think.

If the person you’re refusing to listen to happens to be a different gender than you, you’ve just built a divisive gender barrier wall. It trickles down and gets worse depending on the situation.

As a result, you’re left with people who have given up on trying to speak to you. This will lead to a language barrier with the frustrated party using sarcasm and other linguistic techniques to get out of the conversation.

All of this can lead to emotional barriers as you or the other party may feel that what you said should have been kept to yourself.

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The first step to overcoming communication barriers is to recognize the barriers you have.

We are all guilty of creating barriers. Even if you never text at dinner or engage in political conversations. If you’re being honest with yourself, you can come up with an example of one of the six barriers and how it affected a relationship negatively.

Communication is not easy, and this article is not out to lie about that. Communication is also not a one-way street. It takes work, real effort, to effectively communicate with someone, no matter what the topic.

Try to recognize when the six barriers creep into your day-to-day conversations. It’s important to reflect and understand what triggered the barriers. Did your loved one say something you didn’t agree with? Did you scoff because you found it sexist or hurtful to your personal beliefs?

Rather than putting up a barrier, communicate how it made you feel. And don’t be afraid to use “I” statements. For example, if someone makes a joke that is hurtful to you culturally, tell that person, “I know you’re making a joke, but I feel hurt when you say those things because I am a part of that culture and I feel like you’re laughing at me.”

It doesn’t ensure the person will suddenly turn around and apologize for their ways, but it is a step in the right direction. Guaranteed the next time they go to make a joke like that, they’ll at least hesitate and remember how their words made you feel.

Communication and overcoming the barriers that can get in its way is all about confidence in knowing that your opinion matters, but everyone else thinks their opinion matters, too. Don’t attack someone for an opposing view, but don’t walk away from the conversation either. Break down a new barrier every day, and always be a part of the conversation.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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