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5 Tips to Communicate Better

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When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed. ~Chuang Tzu

After muscling through a variety of work-related changes, I began to grow frustrated with the upheaval and lack of respect that I perceived I was getting from my coworkers.

I felt as if I possessed the skills required to do the job I was hired to do, but my ideas weren’t receiving the attention they deserved and often times, my presence went completely unnoticed.

The experience pushed me to grow a thick skin, a kind of “I don’t care what you think” attitude. And I was ready to battle anyone that attempted to question my competence or step on my toes.

So when a new team member asked to meet with me after a few incidences where we passive aggressively tried to redo each other’s work, I spent the night going over my responses to the attacks I was sure he was about to wage.

I was confident that I knew what was coming. And I was ready to fight.

The Polar Opposite

We waded through awkward small talk as I let him broach the subject at hand. I braced myself.

Yet what followed was the polar opposite of what I was expecting. He simply wanted to know what tasks I wanted to take over, how things worked on the other team I was working with and what I needed from him to make everything run smoother.

The meeting lasted all of fifteen minutes and not a single cross word was exchanged. In fact, I liked him significantly more by the time I left than when I had arrived.

I was completely, totally, unabashedly wrong.

The conclusion of the situation prompted a sigh of relief, yet it left me with a nagging feeling that this wasn’t the first exchange I’d had in which a lack of communication on my part had led to a complete misunderstanding.

Losing Energy

These misunderstandings in turn had created a siphoning of energy in which I searched for a solution based on “facts” that were entirely false.

Communication, for most, is the number one stumbling block in relationships. Often times it requires a lowering of the defensive walls, the ability to see reality for what it is and a willingness to be vulnerable despite the possible consequences.

It’s tough, but necessary.

In reflecting I can say that each of the relationships I have had that ended in a less than positive way involved, at some point, a breakdown in communication, a crumbling of the mutual respect that is strengthened by simply listening and acknowledging where the other person was coming from.

From these situations I have extracted five essential keys for communicating effectively.

1. Find Approval and Peace Within Yourself

Expectations can be detrimental to your happiness when they rely on the words, actions or beliefs of others. When you enter into a conversation with the mindset that you’ll only be content with conclusion A, B or C, then you’ve already shut yourself off to what the other person is going to say.

If, instead, you already possess the peace and approval within yourself than you might have previously sought elsewhere, then the other person’s reaction or words won’t hold as much weight — you are already rooted in a positive place.

Check your expectations at the door and know that you are ok with whatever the outcome of the conversation may be.

2. Listen, Listen, Listen — Then Speak

Often times we think we know where someone is coming from and we act solely on these assumptions. Then — usually once the damage to the relationship is already complete — we find out that what we thought and acted upon was entirely wrong.

You wouldn’t write a research paper on a subject you know nothing about without actually collecting the facts first, right? Effective communication works the same way. We must listen to what is before drawing conclusions and sharing our thoughts.

Not to mention the fact that everyone reacts more positively when they feel as if their thoughts and feelings have been heard and acknowledged. Even if you don’t agree with what is being said, listening helps to create a solid foundation of mutual understanding.

3. Take Inventory of Your Baggage

A conversation is not simply words being exchanged. It is the result of each parties’ past experiences, feelings, perceptions and thoughts.

Most of the time we aren’t defensive specifically because of one particular situation. We are defensive because past hurts have led us to believe that we must have a wall up in order to protect ourselves.

Take stock of the baggage you are bringing in to a situation and try to separate that from what you are currently experiencing. Often times just acknowledging its presence is enough to create a different outcome.

4. Repeat to Convey Understanding

When we’re in the middle of a heated conversation, we are usually formulating our responses in our mind before the other person is even done explaining their position. So while we physically may have heard what they said, we haven’t taken the time to process it and get a firm grasp on their stance.

In order to let them know that you are listening and to cement your own understanding, repeat the main points of their argument back to them. That way they can clear up any discrepancies between what they were trying to convey and what you actually heard, while keeping you firmly rooted in the moment.

5. Make Sharing a Habit

I’m great at letting issues simmer until time and frustration eventually make them boil over. This makes small contentions blow up into something they never need to become.

Yet I’ve noticed that the reaction I’m expecting others to have is generally never the reality, and the more I share where I’m coming from, the more it injects trust, understanding and love into a relationship.

You are constantly painting a picture for others about who you are, what you stand for and how you view the world. The more you share with them, the more likely you are to receive the treatment you desire.

What things help you communicate more clearly? Share them in the comments.

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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7 thoughts on 5 Tips to Communicate Better

  1. shashi

    I like this article so much . Every thing you wrote is true . Effective communication is very important but some people do not want to talk or communicate even with a message exchange is burden for them to read . How we can communicate with such people and it takes years to fill the hurt which they cause, even closest relatives behave like they do not know us ,even children avoid our presence in the house . How to cut these ties ,it is a big problem not only for parents but children feel the same way .

  2. What an honest and vulnerable post, Kayla! And great tips. One that’s tough for me and I continually work on is : “Check your expectations at the door.” I find if I can do that, communication opens up and flows. But it’s often not easy! I can surely work on it from the standpoint of finding peace within myself first.
    Thank you for this!

  3. great points,
    I have some difficulties with the sharing and really just keep it for the highlights.
    mainly because I think it just creates more work than it helps, but also because you never know what is going to happen in the case of an email (who it will be forwarded to etc).

    an approach I like a lot in written communication is the: know, feel, do..
    before crafting any important message I think through these 3 points to craft a more effective message.

  4. Augustus

    For the first point, I thought it’s possible to have peace and approval within yourself and have high expectations for the other party. Having peace and approval to me will allow the individual to respond to the other party with more grace and acceptance, but it has little to with the expectation that I would have going into this discussion.

    Thank you for your thoughts!

  5. Scarlett

    Hi Kayla Albert, a good and timely passage. As now I am suffering these issues too from my jobs, my superior treated me sometimes not good as expected as I deserved in a company with little sense of mutual understanding and respect which I am going to leave. In the above points you have listed, I think I have fulfilled all except the second one. So sometimes you can fulfill the above points, but others do not and still holding a bad attitude towards you. In this point, how will you do? It will be very hard to proceed the communication then. But your suggestions indeed help me a lot, especially my mood and my thought about my future.

  6. Scarlett_Lin

    Hi Kayla, the passage is very timely and inspiring. I just bumped into a situation like this, my coworkers just kept holding an attitude to me that they just wanted to finish their tasks with little thought that they would conveying a bad attitude to me when they are in just so a tearing hurry and in a less reasonable situation. I think I fulfill the above except the second point. But one thing is that I did so, while they did not, how a happy conversation happens? But anyway, your sharing thoughts help a lot. Thank you!

  7. Hi Thanks for sharing a very informative post.I totally agree, being able to listen is one of the key factors in learning how to communicate better. Great Read!

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