“Reading and writing are both forms of communication. So are speaking and listening. In fact, those are the four basic types of communication. And think of all the hours you spend doing at least one of those four things. The ability do them well is absolutely critical to your effectiveness.
Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend most of our waking hours communicating. But consider this: You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?
If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me—your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss, your coworker, your friend—you first need to understand me. And you can’t do that with technique alone. If I sense you’re using some technique I sense duplicity, manipulation. I wonder why you’re doing it, what your motives are. And I don’t feel safe enough to open myself up to you.
The real key to your influence with me is your example, your actual conduct. Your example flows naturally out of your character, or the kind of person you truly are—not what others say you are or what you may want me to think you are. It is evident in how I actually experience you.
Your character is constantly radiating, communicating. From it, in the long run, I come to instinctively trust or distrust you and your efforts with me.
If your life runs hot and cold, if you’re both caustic and kind, and above all, if your private performance doesn’t square with your public performance, it’s very hard for me to open up with you.
You may say you care about and appreciate me. I desperately want to believe that. But how can you appreciate me when you don’t even understand me?
Unless you’re influenced by my uniqueness, I’m not going to be influenced by your advice. So if you want to be really effective in the habit of interpersonal communication, you cannot do it with technique alone. You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust. And you have to build the Emotional Bank Accounts that create a commerce between hearts.”
Relatives of mine, as well as some acquaintances, believe they can be kind one minute, and caustic the next. They create an atmosphere full of anxiety, while we wait for what comment is coming next (kindness or caustic). This creates mistrust. Leaders should refrain from this type of behavior, but I realize it is not always possible.
Next Habit 5
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood