“We love each other but we’re always bickering. I can’t stand it.”
“He doesn’t hear a word I say!”
“We have a huge communication problem: I have to yell in order for her to hear me.”
“I tell him what I need and he just goes ahead and does what he wants, as if I haven’t said anything at all.”
Are any of these words familiar? Whether at work or at home, communication problems can damage relationships. Destructive patterns of speaking and behaving undermine love and trust, interfere with sound decision-making, and breed unhealthy conflict. Strong communication skills, on the other hand, enable people to hear each other, support healthy decision-making and help manage and resolve conflicts in both personal and professional relationships.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines communication as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings to someone else”
Unfortunately, when we’re in conflict, we focus on the part of the definition that emphasizes EXPRESSING ourselves. And we fall short on the act of EXCHANGING thoughts and ideas. Effective communication is a two-way street that involves both listening and speaking. In fact, listening is by far the most important action in the communication process.
ESSENTIAL GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHY COMMUNICATION
Be an engaged listener
- Your task is to listen to what they’re saying and try to fully understand them, even if you don’t agree.
- Devote your full attention to the other person
- Communicate your attention with your body language and your eye contact.
- Listen to the other person without interrupting and without arguing.
- Don’t multi-task
Ask clarifying questions – If you can’t follow the person’s logic, ask
- “What do you mean when you say,” or
- “Am I understanding that you’re saying?”
Don’t make statements that will provoke the other person to defend themselves – like “That makes no sense.”
Have a face-to-face conversation.
- Don’t try to communicate about emotionally-charged issues by text or email.
- Media communication deprives you and the other person from the opportunity to benefit from non-verbal communication.
- Non verbal communication includes your eye contact, the position and movements of your body, the tone of your voice.
Manage your stress
- Be aware of your stress level.
- If your emotions feel out of control at the moment, take a breath and let the other person know that “now” isn’t a good time for your to be fully attentive in a conversation but that you want to find a mutually agreed upon time to talk soon.
Speak with respect
- Express yourself clearly and directly.
- Being assertive does not mean being hostile.
Remember, the most effective communication is about understanding the other person and helping them understand you. It is not about winning an argument. Also remember that it’s o.k. to disagree. As long as you’ve both engaged in respectful conversation and have recognized the other person’s situation and feelings, it’s highly likely that they’ll be able to recognize yours.
“We love each other and find our differences amusing.”
“He gives me a certain look and I know exactly what he means.”
“When I whisper, we both start whispering. It’s funny and drops the tension about 500 notches.”
“When I think I know what he needs, I ask, just to make sure. If I’m not 100%, he’ll tell me because he knows that I really want to know.”
Effective Communication – Improving your Social Skills
Conflict Resolution Skills
Common Conversation Mistakes