If you want to build trust and credibility in your relationships, you must be aware of these 5 blocks to effective communication.
What Blocks True Connection
In a previous article, I shared 10 things we must release to be effective listeners — to hold space for others.
While holding space may sound like a term particular to coaches and therapists, these are fundamental communication skills that apply to all conversations.
Here, I want to share five more things that get in between us and others. Although we may not be able to release these things, we should be aware of them when we engage with others.
As my friend Joanna Lindenbaum says,
Whenever we listen to someone, we are never listening with clean ears unless we clean them first.
Awareness alone is enough to remove ourselves sufficiently from the block so that we can have “clean ears.”
5 Things that Block Effective Communication
These 5 elements can block effective communication and prevent trust and credibility in our relationships. Be aware of them when you are both the listener and the speaker.
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, expectations create resistance. Resistance leads to suffering. When we carry expectations of others — whether positive or negative — we block ourselves from seeing them for who they really are. We don’t see them in their truth. And if we don’t see them in their truth, we cannot hear them in their truth.
Check-in with yourself before a conversation. What expectations have you created about who the other person is and how this person shows up?
Every experience we have in life gives us filters. The filters themselves are not “good” or “bad” — it’s not about judging them. Instead, it’s about being aware of them. Some common filters include:
- your religious background
- your socioeconomic status
- your health and energy level
- your experiences with authority figures
- your working or learning style
- your attention span
- your relationship status
- your education level
When we listen through our filters we create meaning that the speaker didn’t intend.
As you listen to someone speak, check in with yourself and assess where your filters might be preventing you from understanding an issue from another person’s perspective.
We make so many assumptions without realizing it. We often assume we know how others feel, what will happen, or how others will react to a given set of circumstances.
Ironically, the more we relate to another person’s experience, the more likely we may be to make assumptions. Even if you’ve been in the exact same situation as another person, never assume that person feels the way you feel. Be aware of your feelings, but objective to the other person’s feelings.
Check in with the assumptions you make as you listen to others. Instead of assuming, ask.
One of the most significant blocks we put between ourselves and others is fear. Fear triggers the fight/flight/freeze response. In this state, we also lose our ability to hear clearly, if at all.
I’ve been practicing flying trapeze for almost 15 years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of new students jump off the platform. Often, as they hang from the trapeze bar, they don’t respond to the commands from the instructor on the ground, because they literally don’t hear it. A friend of mine who teaches a lot of beginner level flying trapeze classes calls this phenomenon “Fearmuffs.”
Fear also interferes with our objectivity. This can be especially relevant in conversations with close friends and family, who are more likely to give advice that is rooted in their fears. When we advise someone based on our fears, or guidance can come across as a lack of confidence in the other person’s abilities.
Check in with yourself to see where you might be letting an unconscious fear dictate your advice to another person, or where your fears are preventing you from hearing another.
Our own emotional state is one of the biggest blocks to presence in communication. We hear what people say through our emotion more than theirs. This is especially true with email and other written communication, where we don’t hear the speaker’s tone of voice. When we feel stressed, angry, crushed for time, frustrated, hectic, or other negative energy states, we hear everything in a negative tone — even completely neutral comments.
Before you engage in conversation with someone or check your inbox, check in with your emotions. Be aware of what you’re feeling and how that might impact the conversation.
How to Increase Your Awareness
A regular meditation practice and other rituals have helped me increase my awareness of all of these elements. Meditation teaches us how to hold space for ourselves, and helps us see and accept where we are.
In a future article I will share some of my tips and tricks for how I use this awareness to create more presence in my conversations.
Until then, start to notice how you feel when you’re in conversation with others — both as the speaker and listener. Notice where you are bringing expectations, filters, assumptions, fears, and negative energy to your written and verbal communications, and the effect that has on you and the other person.
I’d love to hear your insights and takeaways in the comments.