Thanksgiving is that special day when family and friends join together and celebrate the past year. Often times, however, even the moments we spend together can turn out to be stressful or overwhelming. I'm not just referring to the pains of overcooking the turkey or the headaches of absurd travel delays. In this case, my concerns are mostly with the interactions we have at the table.
Proper communication begins with trust. And, in this day and age, without trust, success is only fleeting.
You might be surrounded by people that have the passion, drive, and competency it takes to be successful in your business, but if you and your employees aren't equipped with the right communication skills (those that breed trust), your efforts may be short-lived. Simply put, if employees or clients don't trust you or the values of your organization, the results you seek today might never match your vision of the future.
Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy—as defined by Psychology Today—is "the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective." Said another way, it's the ability to relate with someone else through their feelings rather than by their words or actions. Simply put, you feel like they do.
But when empathy isn't a part of your communication equation, those that you interact with on a daily basis can start to shut down or feel isolated. And in the workplace, teamwork can quickly turn into "me-work". Ultimately, not employing empathy in your communications can cause your personal and professional relationships to suffer greatly.
For a moment, think back to this familiar instance of feeling out of the loop:
You're meeting a friend for coffee, and you find yourself waiting (...and waiting) for them to arrive. After reaching out via text, you realize you didn’t receive their note—they’d wanted to reschedule.
Despite being friends, this situation can cause a little awkwardness and more than a fair share of frustration. And it all came as a result of poor communication.
You don't need to be bitten by a mutant spider to be capable of the extraordinary. All it takes is your attention and your intention to understand others.
Before moving on, just so we're clear, this post contains no promise of superhuman powers—you're already equipped with the amazing ability to empathize and listen. Instead, what follows are a series of steps to turning on your natural, active listening abilities. No spidey sense required.
The National Center for Voice and Speech asserts that the average person speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute (or wpm, for short), while the average person can passively listen to roughly 1,000 wpm. This ability to hear more words than can be said comes naturally, you might think—"two ears, one mouth," I can hear my mother say. But there's a big difference between being biologically inclined to passively listen and being skilled to actively engage in a given communication. The latter is something to be intentionally developed over time.