The Key to Effective Communication

The Key to Effective Communication

Cell phones, text messaging, emails and all that instant messaging…while created to enhance communication, they have yet to result in more effective interpersonal relationships.

On an individual level, amongst our own Jewish people and certainly on a national and international level, we are plagued by severe problems as a result of ineffective communication. We Jews have the highest divorce rate in our history, we have alienated youth, and young people with identity crises.

The situation in Israel, on both the national and international scale, as well as that in U.S and the world, for that matter, are all of deep concern. Developing effective communication is absolutely essential in building a better world.  Let’s focus on the area where we can make an impact -- our own personal small world.

Each one of us is a building block in society. We develop our own skills, effect our own families and neighbors, and with the ripple effect together we can proceed to unimaginable results!

Although I don’t endorse political candidates, I like a statement made by one of the presidential hopefuls this year. She said, “I listened to you -- and in the process I found my own voice.”

I believe that statement is worth repeating, for listening, not talking, is the key to communication.  Listening builds bridges of understanding. It’s the beginning of problem solving and thus the key to a better world.

You may consider yourself a good listener as I did. But found I had a lot to learn. In 2006 I traveled to Scandinavia as an integral part of a three-member team filming a documentary about Scandinavia during WWII and its aftermath. As in-house historian I suggested where we should film and whom we should interview. My role was to prepare and conduct the interviews. I researched the individuals in order to prepare effective questions. I enjoyed conducting these interviews and thought I was very professional.

To my great surprise, I was ‘reprimanded’ by both the video man and producer! They were quite harsh in telling me I had to learn to “listen”.  I was shocked.  I thought I was listening. But they showed me that I often interrupted the speaker and interjected my own thoughts. The camera doesn’t lie so I actually viewed this on tape.

 It became an incredible learning experience. When someone is in the process of speaking, and pauses for a moment, he/she may just be reformulating some important ideas, rephrasing or adding some new points. When interjecting and interrupting, we break that trend of their thought, or the mood, and something significant will be lost. 

 Since then, I believe I have developed my listening skills and become a good listener.

Listening occurs on several levels. Listening to words or sounds is the basic level. Listening on an emotional level is deeper and requires more of the listener. With music in the background or interruptions by phone or other conversations, the depth of listening will be affected.

Good listening requires focus and total attention. We listen with our ears, but also with our heart and yes, even with our soul. Think of the words of Shema Yisrael.  Listening even includes facial expressions and body language. Effective listening, total attention to the speaker is the key to effective communication.

By listening and understanding we can hopefully respond in a meaningful way. “I listened to you and I found my own voice”

Grown children, teenagers, elderly parents and relatives within our immediate family at various times need a “listening ear”. Giving our opinions and expressing our own ideas before having listened completely might lead to misunderstandings rather than solutions.

In a marriage, in business, and everyday life, becoming effective listeners can only lead to an enhanced life. If we truly listen, with all our senses, I believe we can hear the footsteps of Moshiach and visualize the end of Golus.  

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