Apalla #1 – Communication, Part 1

This first post is on communication.

There are two major aspects to communication: talking and listening. This first episode of communication will be dedicated to listening.

Firstly, it’s universally regarded that active listening trumps passive listening. Passive listening is what most of us do by default; look at the person, get bored, drift off, come back only to realize we didn’t get any of what they said. So, that means that active listening would be genuinely paying attention to the person and understanding every word of what they say.

This is obviously easier said than done. Our brains naturally have a short attention span, after all! But there are some well known tips to helping improve active listening:

  • Nod. Movement directed towards another person makes them feel acknowledged, and focusing on nodding allows you to keep on track with what they’re speaking about.
  • Smile. Smiling makes the other person happier. It makes you happier, as well. Happiness = more willing to do thing.
  • Empathize. Try playing the game of getting in the other person’s shoes. This game will not only help you get engaged, but will work wonders for the “talking” aspect, as we’ll see.
  • Laugh. Any time they try saying something funny, laugh at their joke. This will make a person really enjoy you; especially if no one else laughs.

Of course, these will have to be in some ways subtle. Overdo it and the person we’ll just think you’re crazy (Trust me, been there before — not pretty!). In order to practice, try getting in front of a mirror and pretend you’re listening to someone talk. Notice your face; if someone looked that way to you, would you be happy? Would you want to keep talking? I do this daily in a short 2-3 minute exercise. I call it a “charisma check” because one of the ways to level up your charisma skill in The Sims 3 was to have your character talk to itself in the mirror. Life imitates art, I suppose.

Another important thing to remember: if all else fails, and you don’t remember jack shit about what they say, at least remember their name. Saying a person’s name back to them is like a dopamine kick; we enjoy it a lot. In order to make sure you have their name, try repeating it aloud. You don’t have to parrot it directly back to them (although you can; it isn’t that weird). Rather, you can say something like “Well, [Name], I think blah blah” or “Wow, [Name], that’s awesome!” or some other variation of this depending on the circumstance. You typically only need to repeat a person’s name once or twice in order to truly memorize it, but typically the more you say it the more the person is happy you said it.

The last point I’ll add for this post is to be genuinely interested in the other person. This means both being sympathetic with another person’s ideas/desires as well as showing respect for another person’s opinion. You might say that this is just empathy, which is something I mentioned before. Well, truth is, it’s something worth mentioning twice: I would go as far as to say that empathy is the key to all of communication.

There’s a few reasons I say this. Firstly, if you want to win the game of communication, you have to get other people to like you. And, the one with people like the most is to be respected. So, if you become interested in the other person, they’ll feel respected, and therefore like you a lot better. Secondly, showing respect for another person’s opinion allows you to see more possible perspective in the world, better understand whether your beliefs are truly correct, and allowing you to adapt more easily than people who might have a rigid belief set. Communication is great because communication is a win-win game — if you help the other person, you always help yourself!

Now, don’t feel bad if you struggle with all these things. Most people’s initial reaction to all of this is “Pfft, using my ears? Easy!” and then they get demotivated when they realize that this is actually a lot more difficult than it sounds. You become a good active listener by practicing and making incremental improvements to your form. Then, once you have this down, you can start to focus on talking.

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