As I have written often in this blog, communication is the lifeblood of relationships. That statement is not a new idea, but we often live as if we don’t believe it. Communication takes work. It’s a skill that has to be practiced and maintained. Samuel Johnson wrote about one component of good communication:
“Advice is seldom welcome. And those who need it most, like it least.”
The ability to listen to things you may not want to hear, or to receive thoughts that may differ from your own is an elite-level communication skill. It’s easier to assume that you have things figured out and simply block out dissenting voices. Ignoring the advice or insight of others shuts down communication and will eventually damage the relationship. Here are three things you can do to be more open to the thoughts of others:
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Your co-workers, volunteers, or family members may not feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with you. This is especially true if you have not received their input well in the past. The people around you have valuable thoughts and insight, but they might need an invitation to share it with you.
Appreciate All Advice
When people share their ideas with you, they are sometimes sharing something very personal. So, listen well. Make eye contact. Allow them to finish their thoughts before you jump in. When they have finished, thank them for their input, not in a quick way to end the conversation, but in a genuine way. Appreciating someone’s thoughts will often cause them to be more open to share them with you again in the future.
Act On It, Sometimes
It wouldn’t be wise to act on every piece of advice that you are given. Your experience and wisdom matters too. It’s also a bad idea to never act on what others tell you. If you never change your thinking after talking with someone else they will eventually stop sharing their thoughts. You know you aren’t perfect, that means that there are times when others thoughts are going to be better than yours. Practice the humility required to listen to others and change course when needed.
When you have the ability to hear hard things and to act accordingly, your relationships become more healthy, and you become more productive. It’s not always easy, but it’s a skill that you can develop with practice, and it’s a skill worth having.
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