Thanks to technology, we can talk to each other any time and pretty much anywhere, but what good does that do? Have you ever stopped to think about the difference between communicating with someone and just speaking at them? I didn’t – or at least I didn’t realize how big that difference is until recently.
Over the past year, my now-husband, Erik, and I had the fun of trying out letter writing as a form of communication while he went through boot camp and AIT before moving on to jump school and finally reporting to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
During the four months he was in boot camp and AIT, letters were our main form of communication since he was only able to call me a handful of times, often with 10 minutes to talk.
In that 10 minutes, we’d do our best to cram in two or more weeks’ worth of information. As nice as it was to hear his voice, I often hung up the phone after those conversations with a list of facts and things that he’d done but very little idea of how he was actually doing, emotionally and mentally.
There wasn’t time for it – or at least we didn’t make time in our haste to communicate as much information as possible as fast as possible.
Our letters were often the same way. I mean that usually, at some point in the letter, we’d talk about how much we missed and loved each other, but much of the content was just us communicating facts about what we were doing or what was going on with our friends and family.
The funny part was: Erik’s favorite letter from me was the one I wrote while suffering some serious sleep deprivation after driving to Boise, Idaho, in the wee hours of the morning to catch a flight to Calgary, Alberta.
This letter was a composition nightmare. For four pages, I rambled on wherever my mind decided to wander. Some of it made sense. Some of it needed a healthy dose of reading between the lines to make any sense at all. So why did he like that one the best?
Unlike my other letters, which read more like short essays, this one was completely me. He said that letter felt more like a conversation, more like how I would say it if he and I were actually talking face to face. It was vulnerable and real. Instead of talking at him, I was talking to him. I was seeking to be understood, not just heard.
Now that Erik and I are married and finally in the same place, I often think back to those letters and have come to realize that while being in the same house makes communication more convenient, it doesn’t make it any easier.
I’m also learning that bad communication does not necessarily mean fighting and screaming; it can be any form of communication where those involved speak to be heard rather than understood.
Too often, I find myself listening to respond instead of listening to understand. I wait there with bated breath ready to speak my own thoughts into the air rather than biting my tongue and digesting what Erik’s said and only responding once I have something to add to the conversation besides the sound of my own voice.
How often do we zone out and nod and smile our way through a conversation only to realize two minutes later that you have no idea what the person talking just said? I know I’ve done it.
The worst is when I do it to Erik and he’s standing there patiently waiting for an answer, or he has to repeat himself multiple times before what he says actually registers in my mind.
The funny part is: The conversations we have where we really focus on talking with each other instead of at each other are some of the best conversations we have. They offer insight we can only discover when we truly listen. They make me feel appreciated and valued, and strengthen our marriage.
Whether it’s your relationship with your significant other, your employees, your boss or your co-workers, good communication is still vital to your success and the success of your dairy or company. So how are you doing with it?
When your employees talk to you, do you really truly listen, even if it isn’t something you are particularly interested in? When was the last time you asked someone how they were doing and actually listened to their response? When was the last time you made someone feel they’d truly been heard?
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- Email Jenna Hurty-Person