Every individual has a personal space that needs to be known and understood in effective communication and relationships between people at a personal, business and social level. One way of understanding this is through the ancient concept of “Yin” and “Yang,” known as two polar categories, which though very different are also interdependent and complimentary facets of our earthly existence. “Yin” and “Yang” are necessary to each other in communication and relationships, and the goal in this according to Yin -Yang philosophers is the attainment of perfect balance between the two polars.

In today’s business communication and relationship management “listening” to others   and “assertion” of oneself are considered to be the Yin and Yang factors. Building strong communication and relationships, as experience shows us, involve both listening and asserting for mutual benefits and delivering results. The Yin of listening is understanding and acceptance of others, in different situations. The Yang of assertion is the disclosure to another of what YOU feel, need and desire in your interactions. To the degree that if a person is lacking in either of the two elements his or her maturity as a person (manager and communicator) is incomplete; and to that extent his or her relationships can fall short of the potential.

Deficiencies in listening abound in our society – particularly among the Indian people! Similarly, quite a lot of assertiveness exists in them, but professional and effective use of it in their communication seems to be somewhat rare. It often tends to be more of aggression, which encroaches and disturbs the “personal space” of oneself, or the person one is addressing the communication to. The “life space” concept is generally difficult to describe and understand well. It extends beyond the (physical) body and is surrounded by invisible boundaries (aura). And this is often different for different people.

Improve Your Listening

It is well known that hearing and listening are two different things in communication between people. Hearing is without understanding the meaning of what is being said. Listening is what you hear accurately. With listening you match meanings with understanding of what the other person is saying, which includes words, as well as tone, of voice, expression, and body language. This is also termed as “reflective” listening. In the daily personal and workplace interactions and relationships of people there are some guidelines for reflective listening which if followed will make the interactions and reflections much more effective and productive.

The following guidelines, for instance, can help you become a better listener:

  1. Don’t fake understanding. There will be time when as a listener you do not understand what the other person is saying to you. You may be daydreaming, or your thoughts may be on something else and more important. Or the speaker may not be articulate enough and thus not be able to state what he is saying very clearly. In such a situation, you should not pretend you are listening and understanding. It is important for you not to be a phony. You must admit it if you are lost or not with the other person in what he is saying, and then work to get back to being attentive and listening carefully.

  2. Don’t say to the speaker “You know how he feels.” You really don’t know it! It is untrue if you say so, and at best it is an approximation of what he feels. No one can ever fully know what it is like to be in another person’s shoes. Your goal should be to perceive the other person’s experience fairly accurately, and reflect back (respond) in an accepting way that even communicates nonverbally that you understand, and are with him in what he is saying.

  3. There is generally no “right” response. Vary your responses. Your response can be, and needs to be altered in reflecting the understanding more naturally and credibly.

  4. Focus on peoples feelings. And choose the most accurate words to respond. Learn to tune into the feelings of others as part of any conversation or interaction. Emotions are always key for successful communication, and reflecting the right degree of feelings in your listening is vital to show that you are listening. And with this the right words to back the emotions that enhance your interaction.

  5. Develop vocal empathy with others. That is, listen with your heart, as well as your head. If the reflection on the other person’s statement is made in cold, matter-of -fact tone the person will seldom feel understood and wanted. This can be bad for the relationship. Sometime even responsive sounds (in acknowledgment) from you, by themselves can also demonstrate a high level of listening and understanding of others. In other words, one is referring to,  tone and voice quality being appropriate within the response.

Developing Your Assertiveness

Just as there are specific skills that increase listening ability and skills, so are there practical methods for developing assertiveness. Today, in interactions and relationships – personal and official – assertiveness has become extremely popular as a required characteristic among professional people. One of the primary appeals of assertion is its effectiveness in different situations. It is extremely useful and applicable for a high degree of success in dealing with others.

For you assertiveness helps build in you a sense of self-worth – the extent to which you assert yourself determines the level of your self-esteem. Another benefit of assertion is that it fosters fulfilling relationships by releasing positive energy in you towards others. Assertion makes you more comfortable with yourself, and therefore, others too find it more comfortable to be with you. Assertive behaviour thus greatly reduces the fear and anxiety in you, and leads you to live your own life!

Because of some early conditioning, some people automatically behave submissively. Others are habitually aggressive. Most people are predictably submissive or aggressive at least in some specific situations. The proper goal of assertion training and conscious effort to imbibe the benefits of assertion is that it helps you choose your behaviour effectively in your communication, and behaving assertively in every situation.

Impacting for Your Success

Combining the skills of listening and assertiveness within the Yin and Yang concept of effective communication is termed as “impacting” on others. You make an impact on others by reaching out to people, and establishing vital personal and working relationships. You also influence institutions and society on a larger scale!  Impacting, therefore, provides you with constructive ways of meeting your needs, exercising your abilities, utilizing your creativity, and developing a powerful relationship of equals at every level. Impacting is “self-actualizing” yourself – being involved in a cause outside your skin, in something outside yourself. In other words communicating to gain respect for your own self, and within another’s, needs and rights -- or “space”.

The “Yin and Yang” concept helps you to take charge of your life. It helps you develop an inner power of choice of behaviour and actions in listening and assertiveness, depending on the situation (occasion) with the desired impact on people. Simply put, its all about how to listen to others, how to assert yourself, and resolve conflicts and build on relationships in your personal or workplace association with others at all level. It’s all about your own “people skills”, which is so vital for success in your personal and business life today.