Better Communication Leads to Better Relationships
Better communication leads to better relationships. And yet, better communication can oftentimes be difficult for people. Particularly if those involved have different communication styles. In order to help people get on the same page from a communication standpoint, I’ve listed below ten steps or skills that can improve one’s chances of getting what they want from an interaction by being truly heard and understood, while reducing the likelihood of conflict.
1. Listen first and don’t interrupt. Actively listening means more than just waiting for your turn to talk. STOP thinking strategically and PAY ATTENTION to the other person’s words and body language.
2. Use “I” statements. When you talk about what you are feeling and needing, use “I” statements designed to stop you from sounding like you are blaming the other person. Your feelings are your feelings, your needs are your needs, and that’s okay. Telling someone “I feel _____” or “I need _____” is a better strategy than figuratively, or literally, pointing the finger and saying things like, “You always ____” or “You never ____”. This can help prevent the other person from feeling defensive. The less our defenses are up, the more open our communications can be understood.
3. You don’t have to be a mind reader; so, don’t expect the other person to be one either. Making assumptions about the feelings, thoughts, beliefs, or motivations of others, or believing they SHOULD automatically know your assumptions without having first expressed them is a recipe for provoking unnecessary arguments. If you are confused about something, ASK. If you need something, TELL.
4. Leave the past where it is. Focus on the present issue. If you’ve been keeping a list of what others should have or should not have done in the past, the temptation will be great to bring up the past. DON’T!! Don’t bring up any other issue other than the one in front of you.
5. If you want to avoid conflict, listening and acknowledging the other person’s thoughts and feelings is a great place to start. When the other person is angry, the temptation will be to go straight to explaining yourself because no one likes feeling attacked. However, if you can maintain your calm and zero in on what the other person is saying the interaction is unlikely to escalate.
6. Express empathy. Being genuinely empathetic will communicate support instead of disapproval. Genuine empathy puts yourself in the other person’s shoes so that you can identify with the other person’s perspective. Hopefully, this will help you understand why the other person is upset creating space to respond helpfully.
7. Do not give advice or try to “solve the problem” unless you are directly asked. There is nothing wrong with asking if the other person would like your advice, but if they decline your offer respect that. Allowing the person to decline your offer of advice will maintain the focus on the person being truly heard.
8. Also, watch your tone of voice when communicating. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Be respectful, not sarcastic. Be positive, not condescending.
9. Be careful about needing to be right all the time. Always ask yourself before getting into an argument, who is this person to me? Is this someone I love? Always consider your history with the other person. Could what you are about to say damage the relationship? If so, you may communicate that for you to win the other person has to lose. Try being effective versus being right.
10. Finally, before you shout, call a time-out. Should you find yourself getting angry to the point where effectiveness has gone out the window, take a step back. Take a deep breath. Then tell the other person you need to cool off for a few minutes. It may be best even separate. Once you have cooled off, go through steps 1-10 again and then try again.
Practice makes permanent. Hopefully, these skills will benefit and improve the quality of your interactions with others. Using these skills can help improve your most important relationships and as well as your everyday acquaintances like when simply trying to return a shirt to a clothing store or interacting with your boss about requesting a raise. At the very least, these 10 steps will allow you to trouble shoot inevitable potential conflicts and misunderstandings.