A young man saw an elderly couple sitting down to lunch at McDonald’s. He noticed that they had ordered one meal, and an extra drink cup. As he watched, the gentleman carefully divided the hamburger in half, and then counted out the fries, one for him, one for her, until each had half of them. Then he poured half of the soft drink into the extra cup and set that in front of his wife. The old man then began to eat, and his wife sat watching, with her hands folded in her lap. The young man decided to ask if they would allow him to purchase another meal for them so that they didn’t have to split theirs. The old gentleman said, “Oh no. We’ve been married 50 years, and everything has always been and will always be shared, 50/50.” The young man then asked the wife if she was going to eat, and she replied, “Not yet. It’s his turn with the teeth.”
When we enter the world on the day of our birth we bring with us many tools to help us take the journey of life, two of which, if used properly, play an important role in determining whether the trip will, no matter our age when the end comes and we are asked “How was it?” we should be able to answer, in the words of Moses, “Ki Tov—It was good.” These Two important tools are our ability to speak and listen.
Every day we communicate with family, friends and strangers. The words we choose and the time we take to listen to, as well as hear what was really said to us play a key role in whether our communications with other person(s) will affect our relationships.
Whether we are speaking to others about personal, business or other issues it is important to choose words that convey our thoughts in a manner which will hopefully not be negatively interpreted.
In one of the most informative books I have ever read “Words Can Change Your Brain” by Andrew Newberg M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, the Authors write “Although we are born with the gift of language, research shows that we are surprisingly unskilled when it comes to communicating with others. We often choose our words without thoughts oblivious of the emotional effect they can have on others. We talk more than we need to. We listen poorly without realizing it, and we often fail to pay attention to the subtle meanings conveyed by facial expressions, body gestures and the tone and cadence of our voice-elements of communication that are often more important than the words we actually us”
Think about how many times in your own communications with others have you been forced to say “You misunderstood what I meant to say.”
One of the reasons I have enjoyed successes in my career is because I have learned the art of listening to answers my clients gave me to my questions, waiting 30 seconds in silence as I analyzed their responses and then paraphrasing their comments by asking them “in other words what I hear you saying is——–“In almost every case they were surprised that I had heard what they were really thinking, that in fact I had been able to get behind their words and discover the real issue.
Take the time to think about what impact your words have on others as well as how your manner of speaking and facial expressions may send an unintended message and by all means speak slowly, look at the person you are speaking to and don’t be in a hurry to respond to the other persons comments until you are certain you know what they really saying to you.
Finally, let me suggest that the three words you should never use under any circumstances are “How are you?” When I am asked that question I respond as follows “I am great, but I will get over it.” It is not only a wasted question but the answer you get could very well throw cold water on the purpose of the conversation.
Bernie’s 2 Books; “How to Prepare for Old Age—Without Taking the Fun out of Life” and “Revenue Generation Through the Sale of Kumquats——And Other Things” are Best Sellers on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. His weekly blogs can be read HERE . Bernie also is an advisor to families needing information on Senior Living Facilities and other issues related to Aging.