It’s difficult for a lot of people to communicate with each other effectively. Unless you’re a recluse, communication is something we all do every day. Perhaps because I’m a motivational speaker, author, and radio host, I can talk ad infinitum. I actually find it enjoyable and relatively easy. Yet there is a significant difference between talking and communicating: talking requires only one person, communication includes at least one additional person. Although everyone may be speaking the same language, it’s not uncommon to become frustrated and angry with each other while dialoguing.
Communication is a skill most of us were not taught as children. Granted, we’ve all learned to assemble words in a coherent manner to convey a thought or make a statement. I politely instruct my husband to put the empty ice cream container in the garbage rather than in the sink yet somehow the package consistently needs my assistance in the morning. Either he doesn’t hear me (I don’t think so) or doesn’t understand my request (I seriously doubt that) or he’s not interested in granting my request (more likely).
Misunderstandings and miscommunication can easily lead to frustration and anger. However, being able to converse effectively involves not only a series of well constructed verbal expressions but equally as important are proficient listening skills. Without both, our levels of tolerance decrease significantly while frustration (a root cause of anger) begins to rise, lending itself to angry outbursts. Here are ten skills that will make communication significantly easier and more rewarding.
1. Customize your style. Readjust your level and style of speaking in such a way that the other party can relate to it. I speak differently to my grandchildren than I do to my children. Likewise, my style of conversing is altered when addressing the CEO of AT&T to discuss an upcoming training I’m about to conduct. Know the other party and adjust your style so that they can more easily relate to you and comprehend your message. Use common terms easily recognizable by the majority.
2. Be crystal clear and detail-specific. Carefully choose words and phrases that are easily understood. Itemize and list every detail to every component of the conversation in a clear, organized, and concise manner. There’s a news commentator that tries to be clever and poetic. I am always at a loss for what he is saying. I feel confused and frustrated when listening to him. When discussing a contract with a new client, I am extremely attentive while explaining my services in great detail so there is no question as to what I will and will not provide. Miscommunication leads to a host of problems including improperly completed tasks, hurt feelings, frustration and anger, lawsuits, missed opportunities and much more.
3. Be brief. When I’m with my best friends, Arlene or Michelle, we can talk for hours. With my husband his attention span is significantly shorter. Each individual has a point at which they lose interest or are unable to process any more information. Be mindful and keep your discussions brief when necessary. This is particularly true during conflict resolution sessions.
4. Non verbal communication speaks volumes. In fact, 85% worth. Make certain your body and mouth are working in harmony with one another. Pay close attention to the other party’s non verbal messages as well. Know when they are engaging with you or not. Pay attention to any indication that they are becoming agitated or disconnecting mentally and make the necessary readjustments.
5. Repeat back to the other person what you think you heard them say. We each hear things through the filters of our life experiences and beliefs. “So, what I heard you say is that you will take the garbage out after you’ve completed your homework?” In that way, I am allowing the other person the opportunity to correct any misunderstanding immediately. Ask questions to gain greater clarity if necessary.
6. Listen with the intent to understand. Too often, while the other person is speaking we are already formulating our response. Carefully digest each word they are saying. Ask questions if necessary to gain further clarity on what they are saying. Pause. Then thoughtfully respond.
7. Be a good listener. Too often, communication results in one person talking at the other rather than with. Listening is an art. Communication is a sharing of thoughts, feelings, and needs between all persons involved. Active listening sends a message to the other party that they matter to you; that what they have to say is important; that you value them and the message they want to convey. Be an engaged listener; don’t interrupt or disconnect. Pay attention and give them ample time to speak.
8. Always speak with kindness and respect. No one needs to earn respect. It is a God-given birth right bestowed upon each of us. Use both kindness and respect generously. They will serve you well. Practice my exclusive Heart/Brain Communication technique: hear with your ears, think with your brain, and feel with your heart (compassion) before responding.
9. Practice polite honesty. Most people prefer that you be honest with them. However, one can be crude and hurtful with their words or thoughtful and sensitive. Consider how your words may impact the other person. Remember, there are multiple ways of saying the same thing. Carefully consider all options and chose the one that is most respectful.
10. Disagree with dignity. Very often when individuals discuss issues it is clear that they each hold different opinions. Remember that your role is not to convince the other party to agree with you nor to prove them wrong. Respect them enough to appreciate their different point of view even though you don’t share it. Acknowledge their position as equally as valid to them as yours is to you. Then move on.
Communication is a skill we all need to master and when accomplished can make our interactions with others much less stressful and far more rewarding. A few simple techniques can make all the difference in the world. We all have enough stress in our lives. Let’s make our conversations with one another a joyful and effortless experience. And throw in a smile for good measure. It regulates your attitude.
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
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