Don’t Fall for These Communication Traps

Tips for Staying Present and Focused

Tom Barrett


This week I have been reflecting on what it takes to be present.

One of the four cornerstones of my collaborative standards is the protocol, 聽 Ting . This is simply the traditional Chinese character ‘聽 ting’ for listening. The different parts of the character help us think about body language, undivided attention, and purposefully listening.

At the beginning of meetings and workshops, I talk about expecting this from each other, along with the other cornerstones.

I often expand on the Ting protocol by discussing being present and focused. I want to share a few traps to watch for when you are communicating with others.

Navigating these traps supports me in getting closer to offering undivided attention.

You prep your response

A common trap I see ensnaring people is how distracted they are by their idea prep. One person speaks to a provocation, and the other crew members tune in and then tune out — lost in what they might say in response.

You judge what people say too soon

Teachers do this as an instinctive move in support of young people when they speak in a whole class setting. The neutral, non-evaluative response is rare. Most of the time, it is nods and affirmations. This behaviour drifts into our adult talk too. The trap here is that judgement causes closure.

The reason non-judgment is used is because, left alone, the brain will automatically judge things as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, important or unimportant, urgent or non-urgent and so on. This happens so fast that our experiences are automatically colored right when we get to them, so mindfulness is about being aware of that and taking a fresh perspective. ~ Practiced Non-judgmentalism

You don’t give yourself some latitude

The final communication trap I want you to attend to is self-compassion. Please don’t fall for the trap that it is all or nothing and that distraction is death. When…



Tom Barrett

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