How many areas of our life have experienced breakdown due to limited, unhealthy, or lack of communication? Communication is an important factor in all relationships; whether personal and professional. It is both the key to having healthy interaction with friends, family, and co-workers; and is paramount to building and maintaining successful interpersonal relationships.
Countless times I have coached C-Suite leaders on the “how to” of communication, when their very ‘well-thought-out’ messages were not well-received. When our words are met with resistance, we are forced to look past the “content” (what we are trying to convey) of our message and toward the “delivery” of our message (how we are saying what we want to say). At the core, all people desire to feel both heard and understood. So it goes without saying that if when you communicate with others, you are seeking more to be heard than to understand the other person’s perspective, that your message will wind up lost in translation.
How then can we establish healthier ways of interacting within the context of our interpersonal relationships?
#1) Take it back to basics. Whenever possible, communicate face-to-face. Think about how many times you have thought out a text or email response, only to have it blow up in your face because it was either sent or received with an incorrect tone and/or context. This is because we use far more than words to convey our messages. We also use body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Technology is a useful tool; however, when it comes to having a conversation, it’s my least favorite option.
#2) Choose your words and your approach carefully. Slow down before you begin speaking to think about what message you really want to convey. Speak in the positive rather than the negative (i.e. “I would like it we could spend more time together.” vs. “You never spend any time with me!” I often tell people struggling with communication that it’s not necessarily “what” they are saying, it’s “how” they are saying it. And remember your tone…inflection matters.
#3) Take the time to explain your point of view, and ensure time for the other person to both clarify what they are hearing you say, and allow them ample opportunity to respond. Communication that lacks clarity can leave you spending wasted time discussing something that is not even the topic. Communication that is one-way (constantly cutting the other person off and not allowing them to speak) is pointless and is in fact not communication at all, it’s a monologue.
#4) Don’t attack. When you have to provide criticism of some sort, ensure that it is kept positive. Make it about the “behavior” and not the “person.” If you want a sure-fire way of shutting down a person and losing your message, start with criticism and attacks and sit back and watch the other party’s body language change instantly to one of closed postures.
If you want your communication to be effective, and you have a message that you want conveyed, begin practicing healthy communication today!