Learn to talk with someone instead of talking at them

THERE are many ways to communicate and it has always surprised me how little effort people actually put into doing it clearly.

It seems that we communicate based on our emotion and feeling in a situation, and that's often from the defensive state we've placed ourselves in as we judge the value of a person, their message or the impact of their words.

When I was younger I was renowned for opening my mouth to change feet. I would be so caught up in the moment that talking in a stream of consciousness ensured that I rarely engaged my brain in the conversation or actually heard what someone was saying.

While we have the capacity for incredibly creative thinking it seems that without some level of self-awareness we haven't the maturity of our experience to realise that we aren't the most important thing in the room at the time or that everything we think should be said.

Over many years I have learnt to place a simple "braking" mechanism in my thought process regarding communication in order to provide at least some small guarantee that I or my message will not be misunderstood and that I will understand others.

That "brake" is the thought that "if this was the last thing that I said, would I really want it to be the last thing that I said?"

Now, what that does for me - and possibly you too, if you want to enhance the way you are communicating with people and in relationships - is to challenge me to be present in the conversation, to actively listen and as much as is possible stay out of judging too early what's being said.

I can honestly say that my life changed because of it.

Remember, a conversation is an ongoing series of exchanges from which relationships are built or buried. If you are so busy being locked into your own conversation then how on earth are you going to learn what others know, think or can teach us?

Nick Bennett is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned.