What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “communication”? A 12th grader nervously standing in front of her peers, giving a speech on a subject she just read up on last night? Or maybe you envision a college student typing up a persuasive essay the night before class at a pace fast enough to tear the keyboard in half.
School taught us how to talk and be persuasive both orally and textually, but often neglected the most important part of communication: Listening.
Since I was a youngin’, I’ve heard the phrase “communication is key” thrown around. This cliche made sense in my young mind; if you want to get your point across, you have to speak up. I was never shy of such an act. What took me two decades to learn, however, was the pivotal part of communication.
It was Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that opened up an entirely new world for me. He spoke of the importance of listening not for response, but for understanding. Right after I read this, I had an experience which solidified this notion. I felt as if I had been freed from a self-induced, ego-controlled cage and opened up to an entirely new paradigm. Until that day, I was a product of my conditioning, a conditioning that said “communication is key and getting your point across is communication… therefore, DON’T STOP TALKING.” That very day, I found the true key, the essence of communication; listening.
It wasn’t long until I fell back into my default habits of listening to reply. What changed, however, was my new found conscious intention to seek understanding within each conversation. From that point forward, I was able to diligently practice listening to others in order to truly hear what they were saying. The hardest form of this was when disagreements arose. Listening to understand literally meant that I had to sit there and take the verbal abuse of another as they uttered all the things that I had “done to them.” When an argument flared up, something very interesting happened. Instead of being defensive and striking back, I began to see where the other persons pain points were. There were no personal attacks or threats actually made towards me but more so cries for help that had taken the form of angry words.
It was not during a normal conversation that I saw how true communication was key but during a disagreement with a very close family member. As she began to project her fears, insecurities and pain onto me, I sat there and listened instead of responding with even more angst. That day, I learned more about her than I had in my entire life. I was so moved by the experience that I was brought to tears of joy; even though she might not have realized it, we experienced a breakthrough.
“Communication is key” is not some cute Pinterest quote or overused cliche, but a deep truth that we often times overlook. Think about it, what exactly is a keys purpose? And knowing the purpose of a key, why would communication be the key?
In my eyes, communication is a key to the heart. When we can listen to another with the intention to understand, we open ourselves to the possibility of seeing what is truly in their heart. With that very same key, we can open up the doors to our own hearts as well the hearts of others.
(edited by Tayla M. Hasselbach)