Self-Understanding Empowers Us to Understand Others


By understanding the impact of our communication styles, we can dramatically shift the way in which we are perceived by others and vice-versa. Communication connects us or it disconnects us which means that we will greatly benefit from understanding the impact we can have on others in the way that we interact. 

Our assumptions, use of words, poor body language all the way through to failing to listen actively leads to misinterpretations, failed job interviews, loss in business deals to relationship challenges – these are impacted by the communication process. 

To illustrate this with an example, imagine we are in a conversation and all we have done for the first 10 minutes is talk about ourselves, personal interests and so engrossed in what we are saying, that we have failed to notice that the other person has lost interest or are feeling overwhelmed by what has been said to them. Unless we stop and pay attention, we will not realise that the other person hasn’t felt part of the communication process.

So, what can we do to take steps to move towards a communication process which is a two-way process and where both parties feel like they were listened to, and the conversation was fruitful?

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), communication starts with understanding ourselves so to understand others better. It may sound counterintuitive, “why do I need to know myself so that I can communicate better?”; when we have greater self- awareness about how we communicate, we are able to reflect and convey that to others and we are also able to manage any communication habits which we may possess. 

Creating changes takes time and effort

Being a good communicator takes time, effort and practice. Once we realise that we are not paying enough attention to another person’s body language, the way they use certain words or that we fail to make eye contact, we can create a shift in the communication process by changing those elements. 

Theories of NLP

NLP is a system of understanding messages, reactions, behaviours so to build better connections and interactions to serve the people involved. The way the brain processes information and how the mind and body react to that information drives a change in our behaviours, actions and reactions. 

In NLP, perceptual theory is very important, this is when we look at the world from the perspective of another person. In communication, if we only focus on our own perspective, we will lose a big component of the communication process. By looking at the other person’s perspective and using words which show an understanding and insight, this creates rapport and builds alignment. 

5 Methods to Enhance the Communication Process

Let’s look at how we can start to implement such changes using these 5 methods:

  1. Switch on the awareness radar 

Start to pay attention to the other person, how are they reacting in terms of their body language, voice tone, voice tempo, breathing and use of language. Use the power of observation to gather this information and tailor responses and behaviours accordingly. 

  1. Listen to understand

The age-old adage of “we are born with one mouth and two ears”, means should use them in that proportion. When we are in a communication process, if we truly listen to understand, then chances are, we will truly get what the other persons means and is saying.

  1. Keeping an open-mind

We all have different experiences and views of the world, so when someone shares something, always remember that what are saying is coming from that perspective. We all have different models (a key part of NLP) which impact who we are and by having that awareness, we can shift how we talk, interact and ultimately communicate. 

  1. Knowing the audience

Culture plays a big role in communication behaviours so gaining an insight and understanding of this can be beneficial. By knowing the audience and learning about them, we can avoid any faux pas or cultural clashes. By conducting research and asking them questions, we can gain this knowledge thus further enhancing the communication process. 

  1. What is not being said

The power of body language is profound. 55% (Albert Mehrabian) of the communication process is based on the non-verbal cues in other words, the things that are not being said – in other words, the body language. 

So, the power of observing and understanding this becomes essential. This means, putting away the phone, making eye contact and observing the other person in terms of their hand gestures, eye movements, facial expressions to the proximity they have set between us and them. 

Reflecting on your own communication style

Based on what has been covered in this article, a great self-reflection exercise which we can all undertake is to observe our own communication skills and style. Spend the next few days observing yourself when communicating with others and answer some of the following questions:

  • What am I good at when it comes to communication skills?
  • Do I communicate to be heard or to listen?
  • How do I rate my communication skills out of 10?
  • What do I like about the communication skills of others?
  • What can I do differently in my communication skills?

Written by Sharon James & Philippe Mathijs

As the CEO and Co-Founder of Reach Outstanding, Philippe is an ICF-accredited and Award-
Winning Executive Coach. He bridges decades of corporate experience with coaching to
deliver his passion for helping people achieve their goals and desires.
Sharon James is an experienced NLP trainer and NLP Master Practitioner. She has many
years of coaching experience which has resulted in lasting change for her clients.
Together, they have designed a 10-week program on Enhance Your Professional Skillset
With NLP & Socratic Questioning. Find out more about this program and how it can
enhance the way you engage with clients, colleagues, family members and more.

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