The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said

Peter Drucker

Oprah Winfrey popularised the tabloid talk show in America by making deep connections with her audience. She said “I know one thing for sure – connection equals communication.”

But she admits that she has not always got it right and to illustrate this lapse, told the following story:

She had been interviewing a candidate for the production team. The interview went well until they began to negotiate a salary. The candidate kept upping her demands until Oprah stopped the negotiation and ask the woman “what do you really want? She replied “I want you to want me at your company as much as I want to be there”. She was quickly reassured and an amicable settlement reached. “I suddenly realised she was saying the same thing we are all saying to the people in our lives. “I know that you value me“.

Oprah drew an analogy to this episode by saying “communication is like a dance. One person takes a step forward, the other a step back. One missed step and both will land in a tangle on the floor. That is the perfect moment to rise to your feet and get clear about the next move – to say to your partner “what do you really want”. A little squirming at first, then a bit of throat clearing, maybe silence. But if you stay silent long enough you will get the real answer – “I want to know you value me”. Extend a hand of connection and understanding as you help your partner to her feet. Then face to face I offer three of the most important words any of us can ever receive “I hear you”.

Oprah Winfrey’s skill was that she instinctively knew that what we all long for is acceptance and significance. If we can recognise that need in ourselves, she believed that we could better understand them in other people. She understood that what makes us different is so much less important than what makes us alike.