When I began practicing my own communication skills, I never realized that the abilities I was developing to make me more effective at work would also impact my personal relationships. But I quickly found that nonverbal skills translate remarkably well across my own personal and professional lanes.
Using eye contact to elicit engagement with an audience at a conference, for example, works incredibly well when trying to help my husband understand I am listening to him. Controlling my tone of voice and making sure to inflect properly when demonstrating my passion with my colleagues is an effective tool to deploy when I want my kids to understand I mean business.
“The ways we interact, the body language we demonstrate, and the lack of respect we showcase all lead to a poisoned relationship.”
As a communication skills professional, I’m always looking for the connective tissue that reinforces the importance and impact of our communication skills across all areas of our lives. And my most recent discovery was found in the most unlikely of places. It all started with a notification from Audible about a podcast.
“Where Should We Begin” by couples therapist Esther Perel is a show that takes listeners “into the antechamber of intimate moments.” Throughout the podcast, Perel allows listeners to sit in on intimate, unscripted therapy sessions, exploring topics of sexlessnes to entitlement. And buried not so deeply inside of the discussions about sex and romance are the most basic elements of communication.
At her core, Perel is a communication guru who imparts her wisdom through the lens of how it impacts our most intimate relationships.
“She is preternaturally incisive and humane, alert to the sorts of ingrained fears and long-standing insecurities that clog communication,” The New Yorker writes.
Perel’s philosophies are quite simple, as is the case with most communication principles. Yet they are also ridiculously complicated to practice and master. At the root of all successful relationships is trust, which can only be established through meaningful and effective communication.
On the contrary, as Perel writes in her latest book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, contempt is the biggest killer of relationships and the greatest barrier to trust. When we have contempt for another, whether it’s a romantic partner or a colleague at work, our communication begins to break down. The ways we interact, the body language we demonstrate, and the lack of respect we showcase all lead to a poisoned relationship. As such, Perel’s unscripted therapy sessions are not terribly different than those my colleagues and I teach in professional workshops and coaching sessions.
“The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.”
Despite the fact that I teach, study and practice communication every day of my life, I am intrigued by how Perel packages her recommendations. Couple after couple, she asks the partners to listen to one another and repeat back what they heard. That simple acknowledgment ensures that each person paused—rather than quickly moving to the point they wanted to make—to momentarily reflect on what was being said to them and what they heard.
This simple practice of validating—and at times, rephrasing—each conveyance of communication demonstrates respect, understanding, and appreciation for each person’s own unique point of view.
So how do we teach people to effectively listen at work? Acknowledge, clarify, explore and respond. That same expression of respect and willingness makes us certain that we understand what is being said or asked of us, and it goes a long way when building a trusting relationship in the workplace.
Perel believes that “the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.” Certainly, this is true in our personal lives with friends, families, and partners. We should be looking at communication as a life skill that influences, impacts and improves all of our connections.
The truth is, whether we are conscious of it or not, communication is happening every moment we interact with another person. Regardless of the form it takes or the nature of the relationship, we rely upon our ability to convey messages to let others know how we feel, what we want or what we need.
From the bedroom to the boardroom, communication is an omnipresent skill that elicits parallel responses in varying environments. And “Where Should We Begin” is just one of many examples of this relationship.
Presentr is a technology tool that helps anyone practice and get feedback on their presentation skills to help them gain confidence and improve. The Presentr team includes communication skills experts who have been training and coaching Fortune 500 professionals for decades. Nothing in this article is meant to endorse any political parties