5 Tips to Communicate BetterWhen 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.
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.