Communication skills can make or break a relationship, whether it’s with business associates, family or friends. Learn some tips to help you communicate better.
 
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TRANSCRIPT: In this segment I’m going to talk about communication. Listening is a very important part of communication, of course, so avoid doing these things: daydreaming or thinking of something else while another person is speaking, thinking of what to say next, making judgments about what the other person is saying, and listening with a specific goal or outcome in mind. Do you do any of those things? I have been guilty occasionally of doing those things. This is from an article in positivepsychology.com.
 
Also in that article, Listening Do’s — do show genuine interest in your communication partner. Use appropriate nonverbal involvement; show your attention: eye contact, face towards them, and maybe even lean toward them, if necessary. Pay attention to your communication partner, not your own thoughts, no judgment and tolerating silence. It’s okay to be silent — you don’t have to always fill in the space with words.
 
Communication 10-10 Exercise — also from positivepsychology.com. Each person gets 10 minutes to talk. Set a timer, if necessary. The first person talks about their day, the issue at hand, or whatever. The second person should listen attentively and not interrupt during that time. They can ask questions to clarify the issues at the end, but otherwise they don’t interrupt. Then you switch — the second person gets to talk for 10 minutes, and the first person listens attentively. Pay attention during this time to what the person is really saying. Seek to understand not to educate or inform or change. Be sure you follow the Listening Do’s and Don’ts during that exercise.
 
In communication there are defensive and supportive communication styles. This is based on Jack Gibbs’ work. For example, a defensive statement would be, ‘You make me angry.’ A more supportive statement would be, ‘I feel angry when that happens.’ A defensive statement would be, ‘We should do X Y Z tomorrow; we should clean the garage tomorrow.’ A more supportive statement, which should get a better response from your partner, would be, ‘When should we clean the garage?’ It gives them some input; it’s not controlling. A defensive statement would be, ‘You don’t call me as often as so and so does.’ A more supportive statement would be, ‘You know, I miss hearing from you.’ But you have to be careful how you say that; you don’t want to do it in a way that provokes guilt feelings. A defensive statement would be, ‘You didn’t do it today. Okay, well, do it tomorrow then.’ A more supportive statement would be, ‘I’m sorry you’ve been so busy. When do you think you’ll have time to do this?’ A defensive statement would be, ‘I’m the one who is earning the money (or went to college or is older), so listen to me.’ A more supportive communication statement would be, ‘What do you think about this?’ A defensive statement would be, ‘Let me show you the right way to do it.’ A more supportive way to say that is, ‘One way that works for me is…’ So try using more supportive statements in your relationship or with your co-workers and see what happens.
 
There are different communication styles — some people want to talk it out right away and then they just talk, talk, talk. Some people want to think it over; they might want to go and be alone and mull it over in their mind for a while. So if one of you is a talk-it-out person and one of you is a think-it-over person, some compromise can be necessary. Make sure both of you are in a good headspace before having a conversation about an emotionally charged subject. If someone isn’t ready to talk, agree on a later time to go over the issue when both of you are calm.
 
It’s not about just what you say, it’s also about how you say it. Be mindful of the following things: there’s pitch and volume. When people are upset, sometimes their voice’s pitch will become higher and they will speak louder, and this can put their partner on the defensive. Pace — if you’re excited or angry, you might speak faster than usual, so slow down and you can get your point across better, and you can bring calmness to the conversation. Tone — what emotions are reflected in your voice? People can tell when you’re being sarcastic, or you’re feeling angry, if you let those tones come into your voice. You can use humor to de-escalate a situation, as long as it is done properly and isn’t used to tease the other person. They’re probably not going to be receptive to teasing right then, so it has to be a legitimately humorous comment.
 
This is based on Chris Argyris’ The Ladder of Inference. There’s what you intend to say, what you actually say, what the other person hears, and what the other person thinks you meant. So that’s how miscommunication can happen. Here’s the actual ladder — so down at the bottom you have the pool of observable data. Then you have the ladder with the rungs and it’s kind of in a reflexive loop. Our beliefs tend to affect what data we select and vice versa. We’re looking at these observations, we’re making a selection, we add meanings to them, and then we make assumptions based on our meanings that we just created. We draw conclusions from our assumptions, and then we adopt beliefs based on our conclusions. We take actions based on our beliefs. So if our observation was incorrect, or the meaning we gave to those observations, or the assumptions… All those different rungs of the ladder there, they might mess us up. So instead of jumping to conclusions, make sure you analyze and test the assumptions, meanings, and selected data and observations that created those conclusions.
 
I hope this gives you some communication tips.
 
For more information, you can contact me at my website claritycoachingservices.com.