Empathic listening 

I enjoy catching up with people on my team about seemingly random things like how their pet snakes are doing or what new skills their kids are excelling in.

Apart from the way people loosen up when you ask about things in their lives that excite them, I realise that the key to having a pleasant conversation is simply this – listening

Not just nodding when you think it appropriate but actually listening and confirming what you’ve heard. It makes for great conversation when people know you are genuinely listening and giving intelligent feedback based on what you have listened to. 

Communication is a tool that can be easily abused especially when people speak different languages. 

One thing that makes me chuckle is when I see two people who speak different languages trying to communicate. Worse still, if A barely understands B’s language, there is the probability that B would raise his voice as if by some magic A would understand if he speaks louder. 

I witnessed this yesterday and after chuckling at the absurdity of what was happening, I sobered up to the realisation that it was a caricature of the way I occasionally communicate with my team. 

A lady, obviously French but with a grasp of English could not understand why the trains were delayed. The guard at the station had already announced that another train was stuck on the tracks at Clapham Junction and it would take sometime for that to be rectified. Apparently, his words didn’t make sense to her so she sought clarification from fellow passengers. 

In her sophisticated French accent, she asked in broken English what the station guard had announced and how it would affect her journey. The man beside her tried to explain but she simply didn’t understand what he was saying. 

Perhaps he was frustrated or maybe hungry (we all know hunger turns us into beasts), he then raised his voice so loudly you would have thought by some magic, she would understand him simply because he has said the same thing louder. Thankfully another passenger gesticulated to her and spoke softly and using words that eventually gave her understanding.  

After getting over the initial amusement of the whole situation (I know, I have a weird sense of humour), I realised that sometimes this is how we communicate with one another even when we speak the same language. 

Common sense dictates that one should not reply to another’s utterances until one has a semblance of understanding of what the other is trying to communicate. But we all know that we throw common sense out of the window when impatience and frustration sets in.

Communication is not about speaking endlessly; nor is it about raising your voice above the recommended decibel. It’s about listening. As Stephen Covey advices ,it is necessary for us to “seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

In other news, I found out over the weekend that East Street market is not too far from where I live! It took a friend, who is on holiday in London, to show me where I could get African and organic food without travelling miles. It makes you realise that the things you need may be closer to you than you think.

Have a lovely day people!

x

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