Listen.  THINK.  Do.  RESTART!

This blog post is an invitation to pay more attention on our communication, which happens day by day, hour by hour, second by second to improve ourselves and make the work place a better and more successful one. It is an analogy to wellknown things, but it is not intended to be something like a scientific paper!

„We cannot not communicate!“, is the first of Paul Watzlawick´s 5 Axiomes. Communication is everywhere around us; even in the silence between two or more people. This means communication is not only about speaking and words; communication is far more than that! A good communication needs one important skill:
to LISTEN with all our preinstalled sensors – our senses!
It is a really good idea to hear the words people say, but it is not enough for a mutual understanding. The more senses are involved in the active perception, the more information we will get. The more information we get, the more complete our inner picture will be! According to his Iceberg Model of Communication Paul Watzlawick believed, that only about 20% of the communication happens in our consciousness. This is about the obvious facts – the rational part. The other 80% happen subconsciously and are the emotional part: feelings, fears, hopes, wishes and relations.
But if the words are not enough and such a big part of communication runs without our awareness, what can we do about it? Even information sended and perceived subconsciously are not invisible. If we start to pay more attention to our partner in communication or our environment, we will learn to perceive more signals and hints. The body language – a group of nonverbal elements of communication - like facial expression, body posture and gestures provides important information about the sender. Body chemistry and atmosphere are harder to perceive, but they also express how the communcation partner feels about the situation, the subject or the relation. Another group of nonverbal communication is the paraverbal communication and includes speech rate and melody, intonation, volume, articulation and the voice itself. Both groups provide a deep insight in the emotional part of communication. If we want to lead people, convince them, make them trust or build up a sustainable relationship or a mutual understanding we have to take care of this emotional areas.
We all have heard about this. But to be honest: do we really care enough about it in our daily business? And what do we do with the collected “big data“?
That is the point our endogenous CPU – the super active part of our brain - comes into game. The CPU puts all these information into the context of situation, topic, person and relation. But we have to be aware that the process of interpretation is not an objective one: the “big data“ you have collected – which are also subjective ones – will be mixed up with stored information out of your ROM and RAM, your long-term and short-term memories. This process is starting and running automatically. It is extremely important that we start to THINK actively before we go on acting. With starting to think we are able to decide between perception and memory, between emotion and facts. We are able to recognize whether the situation out of our memory is comparable to the actual situation or not. And we can find out where the information is not complete or ambiguous. After THINKing, it is time to “do“.
To “do“ offers a wide range of action. One possibility is to start “doing things“ like doing your job, helping others, leave the room or whatever. “Doing things“ could work without saying a single word but offers also a lot of information to your partner in communication.
The second possibility is start talking with other people. Please take care of the “with“ because it makes the difference! When you talk TO people it is somehow like a one-way road; you are not interested in the other´s opinions!
The third possibilty is the tool called QUESTIONS. With asking the w-questions you will gain specific information how to interpret your collected “big data“. The method of Appreciative Inquiry by David Cooperrider uses the tool of w-questions through all the four phases to find solutions in complex topics like strategy, change or innovation. If you want to get out the best of the communication to learn and to improve yourself, RESTART the loop: start to LISTEN, THINK and ask QUESTIONS again and again!
Asking the right questions is one of the most important tools in communication and in leadership. Asking the right questions does not only help you to understand, it also shows that you are interested; it makes people think about what they say and it opens ways to other views on a certain topic. Going on asking questions and listen to the answers is one of the best ways to learn and improve yourself. But it is not about asking any question just to do so; the crucial word is RIGHT. To find the right questions requires a lot of concentration on the actual communication. Don´t believe in the mystical tale of multitasking! As communication is a very complex topic with a lot of hidden information, we have to concentrate on it either to find out, if it is an important one or to get out most of the information.
Too much distraction delivers too much additional information which would also run through the CPU. As it is with the CACHE, too many incoming information will delete other information – perhaps those important ones of your actual communication!
For a better understanding: take communication seriously, concentrate on it and listen well! Try it.