Communication – something we all partake in every day, multiple times and in many forms, talking, texting, emailing etc., but how often do we communicate effectively, are people really hearing our message clearly?
Being an effective communicator can be one of the most powerful skills in both our personal and professional lives. If we can engage with people on a meaningful level, have our story heard, but also artfully listen to others, much fewer difficult situations should arise and when they do, their resolution should be much easier.
So, what are the communication pitfalls that we fall into and should be aware of:
• We put off what we need to say to avoid the discomfort that comes from tackling potentially unpleasant situations. This prevents issues being discussed and worked out and sabotages our greater goals to solve problems and have healthy relationships. Often resentment and tensions grow which in turn affects relationships.
• Conveying only part of the story – dropping hints, mutter under our breath. We might bring up the issue but not bring up how we truly feel about it as we are scared it will cause conflict.
• Becoming automatically defensive when someone is trying to convey an issue or concern, which blocks our ability to listen and respond.
Some positive habits of an effective communicator that would benefit us are discussed below:
- Be assertive
• Honestly expressing your thoughts, feelings and wants in a way that also takes into account the rights of other people. “we both matter”.
• Recognition that our own self-worth and needs are as valid as anyone else’s will help lead to negotiation and compromise.
- Be Conciliatory
• Being reasonable and wanting what’s fair for everyone often gives you more power and means you can avoid allot of stress that comes from confrontation. In the end, it increases the chance of you getting what you want.
- Talk about it
• Point out when someone upsets you and help them see things from your perspective. This may help to change some of their behaviour or at least for then to take some of our needs into account.
• Works both ways so you should be willing to listen when someone feels that you have upset them also.
• Don’t leave room for mixed message – if you’re not sure of the person’s message or intent, ask them for clarification and encourage others to ask the same of you.
- Add validation and positive feedback
• Even if you don’t agree with someone’s opinion or reaction to a situation, acknowledge that its valid rather than just acting defensively toward them.
• Mix all feedback with some sincere positive points.
In addition to the above tips, below are some extra techniques we can use when delivering some more difficult feedback which could lead to the other person feeling annoyed, upset or threatened.
• Using I-statements helps focus the statement on our own feelings and preferences without blaming or criticising the other person.
• Focus on the behaviour rather than the other person
• Providing a more complete picture of how things look from our view point
• Include our objective observations (Say “when you said that I’m ‘not very bright’ in front of all those people” instead of “when you made a fool of me in front of all those people”) our thoughts, our feelings and what we would like.
• “Frank, I want to bring up something that is bothering me, but I don’t want us to have a fight about it. Do you think you could listen with an open mind?”
We all have good and bad habits when it comes to communication, and our style can vary greatly with the relationship we have with the person we are communicating with. All too often, our good habits can go out the window when we have been let down by a loved one or receive a bad appraisal from a manager but the above tips will help us the most during those difficult moments and in turn, help us communicate our feelings and resolve our conflicts.