Communication is a crucial component in any relationship. In a post-pandemic world, communication looks a little different than it used to now that Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and other communication platforms are being used for communication in daily life. You can connect digitally with anyone, anytime, anywhere, but how many times have you found yourself finishing up a Zoom call or a FaceTime conversation and wondering what you just talked about?
You’re not alone. Being attentive in conversations is something many people struggle with.
“I’ve heard it said that we don’t have a retention problem, we have an attention problem,” Jay Shetty explains. “We struggle with being attentive. We think it’s that we can’t remember something or that we forget stuff. It’s actually that we were never there. We weren’t present enough to even remember it in the first place.”
Listening is the heart of communication. The average person hears 20 to 30 thousand words in a day. We spend around 80 percent of the day engaged in some form of communication but only 55 percent of that time is devoted to listening.1 That’s a problem because when you do not listen to someone, you cannot truly connect with them.
So what are some common mistakes that people make with communication that can negatively affect their relationships, and how can they be fixed? In this article, Jay Shetty lays out four communication mistakes that hurt relationships, then provides tips on how to recognize these mistakes and make changes to improve how you communicate.
Reflecting the Conversation on Yourself
Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and in an attempt to connect with that person, you reflected the conversation on yourself? For example, maybe your friend is telling you about a struggle that their loved one is going through, and you respond that your loved one is going through something as well.
It is a natural reaction to respond to someone in that way, says Jay Shetty. We sometimes do so as a way to connect with the other person. But when you reflect the conversation back on to you, it stops you from listening to the other person. Everyone needs to feel understood, and by telling your story, the intention is that the other person will feel understood by hearing your experience with the situation. If this is your response, just make sure it is not coming from the place of ego.
The egocentric approach to listening is when a person constantly tries to bring the conversation back to what’s happening in their life and what’s happening to them. This approach makes the speaker feel like they are not being understood.
“If you are going to respond in this way, first of all, make sure it’s not from ego,” Jay Shetty explains. “Second of all, if you’re sharing it in an empathetic way, then make sure that you articulate that effectively. ‘Hey, I’m listening to you, I understand what you’re saying, I resonate with it, and I think that this situation that I went through may help us both have this conversation.’”
It is important to explain where you are coming from so the other person knows you are not coming from an ego-based place but instead trying to connect and share an experience they can learn from.
Listening to Reply
Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”2 Jay Shetty believes this is one of the biggest mistakes in communicating.
“When you’re listening, how many times have you only got your mind on what you’re going to say next?” Jay Shetty asks. “You are spending all your time and energy trying to figure out what you’re going to say next that you’re not understanding or listening to what the other person has to say.”
We fear uncomfortable silence in conversation, so we’re continuously trying to think of what to say to fill those gaps, but Jay Shetty says discussions are best when in the moment. You can ask questions that flow within the conversation, and they don’t feel rehearsed. When you are too focused on the following question, it takes you out of the moment, and the conversation doesn’t flow as easily. You end up missing what the other person is saying.
One way to help you listen to understand is to use a common technique used in psychology. When you have a conversation, explain back what you understood about what the other person was saying. This gives you time to think about what you are going to say and provides the person you are speaking with a chance to make sure they articulated themselves effectively.
“When you use this tactic, you get to clarify what you’re both trying to do in that relationship and connect,” Jay Shetty explains. “You make the other person feel understood.”
Finishing the Other Person’s Sentences
Have you ever felt that pang of annoyance when talking with someone, and they try to predict what you are saying and end up finishing your sentence?
Whether they finished it correctly or not, either way it can be annoying when someone tries to be a human Google and predictively fill in the blanks of your conversation.
“When you try to predict what someone is going to say, you’re putting them into a box or in line with what everyone else thinks and says,” Jay Shetty shares.
Maybe you’re the one who struggles with feeling the need to finish people’s sentences. Perhaps you’re in conversation with someone who often asks the same questions you’ve answered to others time after time. How do you listen to them over and over with the same enthusiasm and understanding as the first time you were asked?
For Jay Shetty, it is as simple as reminding himself that even though he has heard the question a thousand times, it is the person’s first time asking the question. He listens to every question with fresh ears and answers it intentionally for each individual. Recycled answers do not work when you are trying to connect with others. You need to listen to each question as if it is the first time you hear it and answer as genuinely as possible.
“Finishing sentences or predicting sentences means your mind is running ahead while that person is trying to find clarity,” Jay Shetty explains. “If you’re running ahead, that person feels like you’re disengaged or not listening. They end up feeling like you don’t understand them.”
You can solve predicting the end of a sentence by realizing that each person who shares something is sharing something unique. Take the time to listen as if it is the first time you have heard what they are saying.
If you are focused on something and someone wants your attention, don’t get angry and lash out at them. Instead, explain that you will finish up what you are doing then be able to focus on listening to their needs.
Jumping to Conclusions
The final mistake that people make when it comes to communication is forming an opinion or judging what someone is saying too soon into the conversation. Have you ever made an assumption then realized that you were wrong and felt foolish for jumping to conclusions? When you judge too quickly, it creates a divide between you and that person. Let that person tell their whole story, and listen before you judge what they say.
“If you hit the tip of the iceberg of what someone’s going through, you may think, ‘Oh, I know what that is.’” explains Jay Shetty. “Then you judge it or form an opinion on it, only to later realize there’s this massive chunk of the iceberg below the surface where everything’s happening.”
Identifying your communication struggles can help you become aware of those mistakes and help you make the right changes, limiting those struggles in the future.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “4 Communication Mistakes That Hurt Relationships” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.