How life taught me to hear the person in every communication.

I hear you.

I see you

I recognize you.

Often this is all you need in your communication. The openness towards you as a person and your openness towards the others.

Is empathy the key?

This week I experienced different discussions where a person was not seen, nor heard. One of my clients is negotiating a new salary. The discussion is about the numbers, where the client only wants to hear (literally) : ‘Thank you for your hard work and contribution.’ If the manager could ask himself why she behaves like this and listen to her needs as a person (which she has expressed), there would not even be a discussion. Instead he labels her as ‘ a difficult person’.

In another case I participated in an online meeting. Also here the conversation was helt on the content, while the issue was on the relational level. One person didn’t felt heard and started talking faster, even screaming. Nobody listened to one another and the real issue was never questioned. It’s a pity!

Every communication has multiple levels: one is content based, another is relational based. Most of the conflicts are discussed on the content, while the subject is in the relationship, which can be heard in the voice.

These situations made me wonder. In my work and in my coaching I will always work with the person behind its behavior, behind the voice. It made me wonder… How come? How can I empower you to develop this empathy? How can you give voice to this part of a conversation?

I believe you will lose less time and energy if you can see, hear and recognize yourself and the others in your communication. Previously I wrote a blog on empathy as the secret ingredient to success.

How life taught me to hear the person

Did I ever tell that my first job (as a 21 year old) was working with people who committed a crime? My prior task was to guide people who committed a crime towards more self-insight. Therefor they came to me for an individual session each week (instead of going to prison). We discussed their current life, past, work- and family situation. The main purpose was to figure out why they had behaved like that, in order to fix it for themselves and for their victims.

As a 21 year old (which was too young if I look back at it) I expected tuff, bold guys with tattoos. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Unfortunately in those six years I have never seen a bold guy. The biggest lesson for me was that you could not see on the outside what they had been up to. At a certain moment I had a young nurse over me in the seat. While I listened to her story I remember me thinking ‘This could have been me.’ (she even looked a bit like me).

In those six years I listened to a lot of stories, I questioned and helped where I could. I discovered that not everyone is born in a warm nest with a loving family. This defines your morals, your resilience, your behavior. I discovered we all fight our battles, in one case bigger than another. You don’t always see them on the outside.

I never justified their behaviour and I always kept the damage to the victims, family and themselves in mind. But by listening to them, I got to see and hear the person. To recognize them in their struggles was often a gate way to get through them. I remember one person who was accused for severe violence was so relieved that finally someone just listened to his side of the story.

How can this work for you?

To hear, see and recognize the other person is beneficial for every communication. It will improve your charisma and voice in public presentation and communication.

Next to that I believe you will work more creative and productive when you give recognition to the people in the conversation, not to mention the mood and wellbeing at work. A consensus on the content level will take more time when there is a disturbance on the relational level.

I gathered some tips how to improve your empathy and communication skills.

  • Zoom out of the conversation from time to time, especially when the atmosphere is tense.
  • Dare to take a (critical) look at your communication style.
  • Listen to your voice. How does it sound?
  • Be aware of the relational level in every communication.
  • Be aware of the fact that every person has its own struggles (perhaps some linked to you or not).
  • Dare to ask questions. Start with why!
  • Be respectful… Always!

it’s all in the voice

The voice is the entrance to the relational level of the conversation. The resonance in the voice reveals what’s going on on the inside of a person and is the hidden treasure your communication. To be aware of the resonance in your own voice and your conversation is a big advantage in your success as a manager or entrepreneur.

You can create a setting or atmosphere in your communication that invites people to be open about their needs, thoughts and feelings. The more calm you speak, the more others will feel comfortable around you. This setting creates a good working environment where people feel heard, seen and recognized.

For resonance is the glue between your words. For resonance is the connection with your audience. For resonance is your hidden treasure.


Check my blog for more inspiration or book a free a get-to-know online call.