What is the essence of communication? Here's how the dictionary defines communicate: "to make known; impart; have an interchange; the exchange of thoughts, messages or the like, as by speech, signals or writing."

Originating from the Latin commicus, communicate means to make in common. When two people have something in common, they share like values, ideas and interests on a particular topic.

When communication takes place, two things occur. One person delivers a message, another receives it. In an average day, you may exchange thousands of messages--or at least, tens of thousands of words--but how often is your core message truly communicated?

How many times do you hear, "We just don't communicate"? What is really being said here is that the words were spoken, but the message didn't get through. Good communication means hearing another without reference to your own agenda: simply listen, with an open mind and clean slate, and receive the message.

Most of us listen with our brain spring-loaded with our own thoughts and opinions on the subject, poised with a response before the speaker even finishes his sentence. It is thus impossible to hear what the other person is actually saying.

Much of what is actually "said" is communicated through tone, body language and word emphasis. If I am listening with my own agenda, I can easily miss the message.

When we listen and hear one another without regard to our own initial thoughts or feelings on the topic, we often move beyond ourselves and see things in a whole different light. Often, we learn.

My son recently came to me, put his hands on either side of my face, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Mommy, don't say anything and don't shake your head until I get all the way finished, okay?" He had told me all I needed to know about my communication skills. What he was asking was to be heard, to be listened to, all the way through.

Stephen Covey summed it up beautifully: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." (Covey was paraphrasing St. Francis of Assisi, who wrote, "O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive....")

A skill I practice regularly is to repeat back what another says to me, asking if I am understanding her correctly. I also make it a habit to pause, reflect and digest what has been spoken, so I can be clear. This can lead to all kinds of ongoing dialogue, a good exchange of ideas and a sense of trust. In fact, strong communication skills will do wonders for every aspect of your life.


JACKIE ULMER is a successful Internetwork marketer and
has been in the profession for the past eight years.