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We communicate every day in some way: texting, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.
But that is not the same as talking to a person face-to-face, where we can see facial expression, have a discussion about difficult issues, and ask for clarification.
What are you saying and what is being heard?
“But you said. . . .”
“No, I didn’t. . . .”
“Yes, I heard you say. . . . .”
“Well, that’s not what I meant!”
Communication travels both ways. It is both what is said and what is received.
Because each of us has a different outlook on life, the words we use are often perceived differently by both speaker and listener. They are often colored, distorted and sometimes misleading based on our perspective. Add to the mix anything that is happening in the moment that impedes our ability to listen and discern and we are headed for trouble.
12 ways to become a better communicator
- Check your emotional state.
Are you feeling stressed, anxious, fearful, tired, depressed, etc.? Your feelings will affect or influence what you are saying. Your approach to solving problems will be reflected in your words, facial expression and body posture.
- Body Language.
All communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Does your body posture and facial expression match what you are saying?
We pay attention to body language first and words second.
- Think before you speak.
Know specifically what you want to convey before you start talking. What is your intention? Keep focused on what you want to get across and ask for feedback. Think, ask questions and verify.
- Check your perceptual filters.
We each see the world differently.
When emotions run high, we rarely stop to consider how what we are saying is affecting someone else.
Are you being honest and upfront? Do you have a hidden agenda? Be aware of the responses you are getting. What is said often triggers impulsive and offhand replies.
- Ask for wants and needs – don’t just hint at them.
Don’t assume others will know what you need or want. Don’t assume you will always get what you want either.
- Respect the rights of others.
Respect their space, their feelings, their integrity and their intelligence. Are you attentive and show an interest in the person you are speaking to? Can you reinforce that attention by eye contact, smiling, nodding and other appropriate gestures?
- Ask for feedback.
Don’t assume the other person heard everything and automatically understands what you are trying to say.
- Use reflective language – validate feelings.
People who are emotionally upset, angry or conflicted may feel they shouldn’t feel this way and become defensive. Validation says it is okay to have those feelings.
- Let people know you are listening.
Use “uh-huh,” “I see,” and other verbal and physical ways to let others know you are paying attention.
Really listen – don’t just pretend.
Turn off the response mechanisms for a short while and focus on what the other person is saying, both verbally and physically.
- Use “I” statements.
An “I” statement tells others how you feel, what you are thinking and what bothers you and what you want. It accepts responsibility for how you feel.
Example: “I get upset when I hear words that tell me I shouldn’t be doing this or that.”
- Eliminate “You” statements.
“You” statements hold the other person responsible for what you are feeling. “You” statements blame, accuse, label, judge and evaluate. They are meant to intimidate and create defensiveness and are used to manipulate. For example: “You are always telling me what to do.”
- Eliminate powerless talk.
If you have something to say – say it. But say it politely, specifically and firmly.
Powerless talk is tentative and hesitant. It hedges or qualifies what you say with statements such as, “I guess, or you know.” Powerless talk adds disclaimers to their statements such as “don’t get me wrong, but…”
Take some time out this week to spend with your friends, face to face. Have a conversation. Listen and validate and share.
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