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Communication is a skill that is learned and developed over time. When we recognize what isn’t working, we can replace it with something that will work.
We communicate all the time. We cannot not communicate. With our facial gestures, postures, words, or attempts to change the other person, we need to know how to become the type of communicator who respects ourselves and others.
Knowing yourself is vital in becoming a good communicator.
You need to know what triggers your stress buttons or emotional upsets, your fears of being hurt or looking stupid. Finding ways of dealing with adversity are often hidden from you until you are willing to accept yourself unconditionally, with both the good and the bad. When you feel okay to face your vulnerabilities you are taking charge of your interactions and your life, and that is reflected in your conversations.
Here are 12 things you can do that will promote good communication:
1. Check your internal states.
Lower anxiety levels and remain calm and open. Be attentive to other people and display this through your non-verbal behavior.
2. Be aware of both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Communication can be expressive. Be aware of your body communication as well as your words.
3. Think before you speak.
What message are you sending with the tone of your voice, your facial expression or stance? Remember that good communication is a skill. Like any skill, it demands attention to detail until habits are formed.
4. Check your perceptual filters.
How might your perceptions of problems or events become a distortion to your intent? Are you being honest? Are you speaking with a hidden agenda?
5. Know how to ask for wants and needs.
If you want something, ask for it – don’t assume the other person should or ought to know.
6. Respect the rights of others.
Respect their space, feelings, integrity, and intelligence. Even if you adamantly disagree, you can respect the opinions of others.
7. Ask for feedback.
Don’t assume the other person automatically understands what you are trying to say.
8. Use reflective language – validate feelings.
When people are upset or angry their emotions are heightened or mixed and they may feel guilty for feeling that way. Validating your listener’s feelings tells them you care, and that they are okay.
9. Let people know you are listening to them.
Use of mmm, uh-huh, and other verbal and physical responses can let the other person know you are listening.
10. Use “I” statements.
“I” statements tells others where you are at. It tells them how you feel, what you are thinking, and makes your wishes and wants known. Examples: “I think… I feel…when… I wish you would… I want…”
11. Eliminate “you” statements.
You statements blame, accuse, label, create defensiveness, judge and evaluate the other. You statements are saying the other person is responsible for how you feel and how you choose to respond.
12. Eliminate powerless talk.
Powerless talk is tentative. It hedges or qualifies (I think, or I guess). It hesitates or reverts to you knows. It involves a tag question, such as “sure is cold in here, isn’t it”? It involves disclaimers such as, “Don’t get me wrong, but…”and uses phrases that you feel you need to prove by showing or pointing out.
Good Listening Skills
Listening is as important as the message sent. Listening requires that you are there: physically, emotionally and intellectually. You are active in the listening process. It requires attention, effort, time, and focus.
It takes work to concentrate. It requires an open mind. When someone comes to you to talk, put down whatever you are doing and look at the other person as they speak. Give some eye contact. If you don’t have time to listen, let the other person know when you will have time to listen and set a time of agreement for that.
Before responding to someone’s question, comment, or suggestion, rephrase it in your own words to show that you have fully grasped what was said. Then ask for verification and let the other person take the lead again in the conversation.
If the other person’s statement sounds like a criticism, resist answering defensively. Clarification is needed instead.
“If I understand what you are asking, you need. . . so that. . . Is that correct?”
Ask open-ended questions.
There is a difference between a yes-no question and an open-ended question:
Yes-No: I expect you to have these chores done before dinner. Do you understand?
Open-ended: These are the chores that need to be completed. Can we talk about who will be responsible for which ones?
Or “Is there a problem we need to discuss?”
Or “What can I do to help you?”
Or “What information do you need from me?”
Or “So what do you think?”
During times of stress and conflict, use statements instead of asking questions in a snotty way. When you are tempted to classify something the other person has said as wrong, incorrect, or inaccurate, ask for clarification.
“This is what I heard (observed, etc.) Is this correct?”
How we respond matters as much as the information asked for. We can encourage people, or we can shut them down by issuing questions that sound like orders and are perceived as attacks.
Questions asked during times of tension, no matter what they look like on the surface, can easily be turned into one question: Okay, whose fault is this?
Don’t fire question torpedoes.
Instead of, “Who told you that you could play with that?” use a statement. “I see you believed it was okay to play with that. Am I correct?”
Here are 15 important listening skills to develop:
- Prepare to listen
- Control or eliminate distractions
- Find common areas of interest
- Listen for main ideas
- Keep an open mind
- Judge content, not delivery
- Delay evaluations
- Stay focused on what is being said rather than thinking about your reply
- Body language, one of voice and content should agree
- Don’t speak for the other person
- Don’t give advice
- Give feedback – paraphrase
- Ask for more information when needed
- Avoid analyzing
- Validate feelings
Next week we will conclude this series on communication.
Do you want to turn your stress into a positive force?
My Make Stress Work for You bundle will help you:
- Identify the personal stressors that create high levels of distress in your life
- Learn how to identify problems and find ways to solve them
- Replace unhelpful thinking with constructive and practical ways to lower levels of fear, worry, and anxiety
The book bundle includes:
- audio recording of each chapter’
- companion Study Guide & Personal Application Workbook
- Four bonus guides