Where ever two or more humans come together, there is communication. But how effective is that communication? The fact is, it could always be better.

Our political system and media daily give us “good examples” of “bad communication”. We experience situations at work or in our relationships where we think we are communicating well and then discover that not to be the case. One of the keys to improving our world — both the greater public world as well as our more personal private world — is to work towards ensuring that everyone is heard and understood in our personal interactions.

Today, I want to recommend to you a book that I just recently discovered that I think can help us all in this area….and the good news is that you can download it for free! (See below).

Sharon Drew Morgen’s What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? is a wonderful book that guides us toward taking greater responsibility for our communications with others.

The book is divided into two parts — the first, analyzing how we hear others; the second, guiding us towards having conversations without bias or misinterpretations. Her writing style is easy to understand and the book is full of examples, self-evaluations and exercises to lead us in our personal development.

I especially appreciate that Morgen summarized each section’s key points. Tip: if you are short on time or if you get bogged down in any of the chapters, read the two section summaries!

Here are a few key points from her book that I believe are worth quoting here:

  • “Our brains subjectively filter in and out what others say in order to maintain our personal beliefs (core values) and identity. This may or may not represent the reality of what has been said.”
  • “We instinctively and habitually behave (react, defend, agree) in ways that will maintain our equilibrium and status quo. These behaviors may or may not be the best choices for that conversation.”
  • “We instinctively choose what seems to be the most appropriate skills (choosing filters, mishearing) to communicate in different contexts.”
  • “Beliefs form the core of who we are. They are identity-based and subjective, hard-wired to represent our values, principles, convictions, and possibly even faith; the morality upon which we base our opinions and actions.”
  • “Our behaviors represent our identity. They are our beliefs and values in action; the actionable representation of who we are.”
  • “A skill is the underlying set of components – the fragments – that enable performance and make it possible to ‘do’ a behavior.”
  • “By originating with the skills (the hows) rather than beliefs, by learning how to interpret what’s been said objectively without experiencing any triggers or offending our beliefs, we can unhook from any instinctual responses and notice a broader range of possible behavioral choices. So instead of being annoyed when we hear something ‘offensive’ we might get curious. Instead of assuming someone is asking for help, we can recognize they merely wanted to share a thought. Instead of assuming our job will change, we might hear that we are being offered a promotion. No more reacting, mishearing, misunderstanding, biasing, or assuming.”

Ultimately, Morgen is calling us to become more conscious whenever we are conversing with someone. We do not have to “react” to what others are saying but rather become someone who is proactively “at choice”. She encourages us to notice when our interactions appear to go awry, to stop and become the “Observer” of the conversation and to the degree possible to take the other person’s perspective.

This sounds simple but from my own experience it takes a lot of practice. As Morgen says: “Filters, determined by our history, family myths, social constructs, hopes and dreams, education, relationship issues, religious beliefs, ego issues, keep us in our safety zones. They are the very foundation of our brain’s unconscious choices of what we allow in, keep out, or alter in our conversations, siphoning off or reinterpret whatever our brains find uncomfortable, regardless of the importance. Filters sequester us inside our own personal bubbles.”

Getting outside our comfort zones, our “personal bubbles”, can be challenging — but the payoff is worth it if our lives and our world are improved.  I firmly believe this book can help.

In case you are wondering, I do not know Morgen. She appears to be providing the book for marketing her own business, which is standard these days. However, she is to be commended for producing a most useful volume and making it free for all of us. Kudos to her!

Here is the link to download a free copy of the book What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?

Mark Gilbert

ps. Don’t forget to check out my books as well….Click here to visit my Amazon Author Page.

pss. And, click here to access my latest audio presentation The Evolution of Your Life for free!