4 Levels of Conversational Awareness

“Whenever you are confronted with some specific problem - such as handling a child, winning your spouse to your way of thinking, or satisfying an irritated customer - hesitate about doing the natural thing, the impulsive thing. This is usually wrong.”

- Dale Carnegie

Whether it’s at work or at home, we often communicate on automatic pilot. To become a better communicator, you have to increase your awareness on four levels:

  1. You have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This means being more considerate and respectful of his or her time and opinion. Whether you are listening or talking, you should constantly remind yourself that you are having a conversation with a real human being with her own perspective, wants and needs.

  2. You have to meet with more intent. We complain about wasteful meetings, but we don’t ask the right questions to make them better. Start by asking yourself why you are meeting in the first place. If you can’t answer this question, you should probably cancel the meeting.

  3. You have to be mindful of the moment. Listening requires full commitment and deep focus. Beware of internal and external distractions. If you are in a rush or otherwise stressed, it’s better to suggest another time to talk.

  4. You have to be aware of your own emotions, biases and habits, because they affect how you listen and respond. As I suggested in a previous post, it could help to study yourself with a scientist’s eye and keep a journal of your observations. The same can be achieved through constructive feedback from colleagues, professional coaching or communication training with video analysis.

Neurological studies show that humans are not as rational as you might think. Most of our behavior in conversation is driven by unconscious processes, which could result in misunderstanding, disengaged staff, broken relationships and wasteful meetings. The first step to creating meaningful interactions is to become more aware of this blind spot.