Communication is a two-way street; the exchange of information among individuals. The only way to do so effectively is to understand that communication only occurs when both parties leave with a better understanding. Both parties have a responsibility in maintaining effective communication and the recognition and willingness the accept said responsibility is the only way to minimize miscommunications, while also fostering a safe and encouraging space to learn.
Broken up into 2 parts: the speaker and the listener
The speaker who is providing the information, it is their responsibility to communicate with cognitive ambidexterity in mind. Construal Level Ambidexterity aka Cognitive Ambidexterity aka Cognitive flexibility is a concept I learned about in my intro to entrepreneurship class as a freshman in college that forever impacted my personal communication style. It is one’s ability to take “sky-high” complex topics and use logic and personal experiences to explain topics in a way that is more palatable and concrete to people with differing levels of understanding. It is the speaker's responsibility to communicate clearly and in a way that matches the tone of the conversation. My professor used the example of an astrophysicist's ability to teach astrophysics to a kindergartener, a high schooler, a Ph.D. student, and a fellow astrophysicist. The physicists recognized his higher understanding of a complex topic and took the time to use more common examples and analogies to communicate in a way that once the conversations were over every person left with a better understanding (even the speaker). This method of communication makes it possible to talk to anyone about anything in a way that encourages the continuation of conversations. I never realized how powerful and necessary the need for cognitive ambidexterity was until that lecture but now I try my best in every conversation I have to think divergently and explain things as clearly and concretely as possible.
As for the listener, the end goal should not be to have a response formulated by the end of the person’s sentence. Taking time to comprehend the information that they just received and giving yourself a moment to think about what was actually just said before creating a response is crucial. Listening is about being honest with yourself. “Am I willing to have this conversation right now?” “Do I feel comfortable expressing my true opinions?” “Is the other person in the headspace to accept my responses rather than seeing this conversation as a debate to win?” To be honest with yourself is to allow yourself to have effective,non-confrontational discussions. Passive listening with the intent of rebutting every statement is not only ineffective but also frustrating to experience. Actively listening and asking questions to clarify possible miscommunications all while deferring judgment are what allow true, perspective-widening conversations to be had.