What goes on in your head when someone’s talking?
Are you digesting what they’re saying? Are you processing what they’re saying, trying to understand the nuances? Are you getting their point?
Or, are you collecting your thoughts until it’s your time to talk?
Honestly, I’m sure we both do the latter.
It’s easier to be a talker than a listener.
I blame it on our society’s need to defend our views while attacking others. All for our self-esteem, mind you. We’ve fused our views with our self. And when those views are criticized we feel personally attacked.
I also blame it on laziness.
It’s easy to forget to listen. I mean, really listen.
Understanding is a lost art. We’ve lost how to properly communicate.
So hopefully I can give some good advice. To help you communicate better. Which in turn will help you see the world differently, letting you impact it effectively. For Freedom, of course.
Are You a Talker or a Listener?
Like I said before, talkers use gaps in the conversation to gather their thoughts. They’re lecturers. It’s about them and their story, what they have to say.
Most of us are talkers. I’m pretty sure I lean this way.
A listener is the opposite.
They focus on others, not themselves. They want to understand your opinions and positions. They’re genuinely interested in what you believe. Your opinions matter to them.
Listeners make sure they fully comprehend your point of view, from your perspective, not theirs. They do this by not only dissecting what you say, but by asking clarifying questions, and not making assumptions.
I think Plutarch outlines the difference between a Listener and a Talker the best…
“Immediately to lash out in retaliation, however, and neither to listen nor be listened to, but to speak while being spoken to, is scandalous; on the other hand anyone who has acquired the ability to listen in a self-controlled and respectful fashion is receptive to and retentive of any remarks that are useful, while any that are useless or false are quite transparent to him and easily detectable, because he is–as is obvious–aiming at the truth rather than at winning an argument, and does not pitch in head first for a fight.”
What Leads to a Break Down in Communication?
Being an aggressive internet troll will do it (wink wink).
Most break downs in communication, however, aren’t that obvious.
If you are dealing with a troll, the conversation (if you can call it that) isn’t worth it. End it.
If someone enters the conversation automatically aggressive, you might want to leave too.
Other than that, you’ll want to make sure you don’t mess it up.
- Realize the limits of language: your vocabulary is limited (so is mine, it bugs me constantly). If you’re not a skilled conversationalist (or heaven forbid, a debater), you’ll have to clarify and reword your views. Too many times a conversation can go sideways because someone used the wrong words, phrases, or analogies. This alone can easily slip you up if you’re not careful.
- Remember your personal history & culture has shaped & conditioned you: we all have our own environments, childhood, and community that’s shaped us. It influences our views. Its taught us how to view the world. We all have some form of colored glasses on. What goes wrong is when we fail to comprehend the colored glasses everyone else wears. It’s easy to mistake colored glasses for a stupid pill. Rarely has anyone taken a stupid pill. They just have different glasses on.
- The underlining context & emotional state: emotions are powerful. Many times, it’s what drives us. The context behind our views can confuse others into assuming something about us that isn’t true. Failing to understand the emotions behind someone’s opinions is a surefire way to failure.
- Thinking people are more logical than they really are: Haha! This one’s funny. Like, seriously, do you think humans are rational beings? Maybe in some cases. But that “rationality” is wrapped up in emotion. Assuming they’re just gonna fall to brute logic is not only insulting to them, but comical that you think you can logically win them over. C’mon son!
- Listening with the wrong intent: we all listen for one reason or another. The problem is when we listen determined to defend our point of view while attacking theirs. It’s counterproductive. And rather pathetic.
- Viewing the conversation as “I’m right, you’re wrong”: this is the ultimate self-righteous stance of an arrogant know it all. Sorry, but just because you think you’re right, doesn’t make it so. Also, who cares? Don’t you want to understand them so you can win them over? Arguing that you’re morally superior is a jerk move. Stop it!
Pointers for Better Communication (Remember These)
Now to the stuff that’ll hopefully help you. Remember them and apply them.
- Listen with an intent to agree: “Before you offer an explanation or defense, just imagine that whatever the other person is saying must be true. And rather than defend yourself by finding error in some details, challenge yourself to find the deeper truth of what’s being said. Often, that will require you to dig deep into that 93 percent of non-verbal communication. It will definitely require you to drop all your defenses…” (source)
- Aim to find out the truth, not win an argument: what do they believe? Why do they believe it? What influences their belief? This is what you should be discovering. Arguing is a waste of time.
- Approach every conversation with an open mind: yes, you believe your side is right, but could you be missing something? Do you fully understand the contrary view? Have you articulated your views effectively? This isn’t about who’s right. It’s about discovering why they believe what they believe (check out my recap of how I approached two democrats at my county fair if you want to learn more on being open minded in a conversation)
- Help others get their views properly heard & understood: it’s nice when people can understand and communicate our beliefs. It’s validating.
- For crying out loud, be courteous about it: this isn’t hard. Be nice and friendly. If the person doesn’t come in guns blazing troll-attack, you shouldn’t be a jerk. Respect their views. Don’t give out unconstructive criticism.
- Watch out for negative first impressions: It’s easy to dislike someone if they resemble someone you have problems with. It’s easy to let subconscious issues affect your conscious decisions. Make sure that you’re not letting their appearance, background, or speech affect your view of them and their opinions.
- Clearly articulate their views: this is a requirement for any meaningful conversation. The better you understand their views, the better you can address them. The more effective the conversation will be. But make sure that you’re not assuming their beliefs from your own experiences and biasness.
- Watch your tone and demeanor: if you’re acting disinterested or critical, your body language will show it. You want to communicate a feeling of acceptance, understanding, and friendliness. You do that with the right posture, tone of your voice, and facial expressions.
For more info check out these resources:
Summing it All Up: Without Communication Our Cause is Lost
As lovers of Freedom, we’re not held to the same methods of proliferation as other political groups are.
We’re not limited to voting, activism, or putting our candidates in office.
I would argue that such “state-centered” solutions are misguided. You don’t change minds by electing a new president. And you certainly don’t change public opinion by passing a law.
I’m also wary of some forms of activism that claim big crowds of protesters change minds. It’s a show of force meant to intimidate both politicians and citizens alike.
“Look at how many people support our cause! We’re a big deal!”
I prefer more subversive forms of activism. The kind that influence one person at a time. The kind that change societies.
No one sees the guy who regularly talks to his coworkers as an activist. No one sees them coming.
We, as lovers of Freedom, move from individual to individual. We interact with them on a personal level. Getting to know their worldviews, opinions, and the reasons, fears, and emotions behind them.
We create change from the inside out.
Which is why proper communication is so vital. We can’t be held down by petty arguments and aggressive attitudes.
If you’re serious about spreading Freedom for all, you need to work on your communication.
Listen, understand, and respect.
So what do you think about these tactics for creating meaningful conversations? Do you think it’s worth it, or was anything looked over? Let me know in the comments below.