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March 09, 2008




Great post!

That’s a lot of rules. I agree with each of them, so I’m not sure if of them can be tossed out to try to reduce the total number. Like anything that is worthwhile, learning to be a great communicator takes dedication and practice.

It is worth noting that although a particular speaker and/or listener won’t follow all of those rules it doesn’t mean that a useful dialogue is impossible. Often a foundation for effective dialogue must first be created, especially when the two participants have a long history together. One or both participants may be bringing baggage to the discussion. The best speakers and listeners will adapt to the abilities of others, and look for opportunities to coach others about being better speakers and better listeners.

People with a long history together can also neglect to see that people change over time. Sometimes in my disagreements with my wife I catch myself trying to communicate with who she was 20 years ago rather than communicating with who she is today. Our dialogues can become like dances we learn and then follow the steps automatically, and thus without realizing that we are no longer dancing with the same person. Humans find a sense of security in that which is familiar, even if what is familiar is dysfunctional in our current circumstance and holds us back form moving forward.

It is also important to treat each person as an individual rather than assuming that we already know him/her because of prior dialogues with others “like him/her.” Our prior experiences with others “like them” form part of the baggage we bring to a discussion.

Any disagreement will go through phases if the dialogue is maintained long enough. Each side needs to establish its credibility. For example, it is the listener’s responsibility to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt that the speaker is trying to speak so as to be understood and is not merely scolding or venting, yet it is the speaker’s responsibility to speak so as to establish that credibility of seeking to be understood. Likewise the listener must establish credibility as a good listener while the speaker avoids assuming that the listener can’t or won’t understand.

A parallel concept to establishing credibility as a speaker and credibility as a listener is to validate each other’s words. I have listened to dialogues where both sides were repeating the same thing over and over without acknowledging that what the other person said is valid. You can acknowledge that it is understandable why the other person believes this or that without agreeing with what they are saying, and if you agree it is important to voice that agreement. People are people. If we take the time to put ourselves in another’s position for just a moment, we often see that we would feel the same way they do. That doesn’t mean that the response to a bad situation is the best response, but we can often see how the response is human.

Validation is a step towards healing. If you are willing to view the world through my eyes, I am more willing to try to view the world through yours. Once I can see both sides, my point of view is broader. Often two people agree and don’t see that they are in agreement because they are approaching the same point from two different directions.

Hawi Moore

I love this post

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