Communication is at the root of all good and bad relationships. Communication skills are not something we were born with; rather, they are learned in time. Effective communication is so much more than saying some words or leaving a note. Humans are complex; we have emotions and feelings that need to be considered. We could go into great depth on this subject; rather, we will get down to the basics of simple things you can do to improve your ability to communicate.
A universal and straightforward communication strategy involves three key hallmarks: Listen, Understand, and Validate. Utilizing this strategy can significantly reduce misunderstanding, prevent conflicts, and increase trust between people.
Listen to all that the other person has to say without interruption.
When they stop walking, wait 3 seconds (count Mississippi’s in your head) before you allow yourself to start talking. The reason for this is that most people will only share surface information at first. Creating this intentional pause will cause them to start talking again and go deeper, allowing them to uncover the problem’s root. Most people need to process their issues through speaking as opposed to just thinking about them. You may find that just allowing them to talk will resolve the problem. If they stop for more than 3 seconds, respond with assurance using a positive tone, such as “I hear you” or “That is interesting.”
Make sure to always provide acknowledgment that you are listening, verbally and nonverbally.
Verbally you want to reflect their words to them as this will help them process their thoughts. Use short responses along the lines of: ‘ok,’ ‘yes,’‘ tell me more about that,’ ‘how do you feel about that.
Non-verbal communication includes head nods, making eye contact, and stopping whatever task you might be doing. Suppose someone feels like they are not being listened to or understood. In that case, it is because they are not receiving the appropriate non-verbal cues from you.
Tip: Respond to them by restating what they said in a simplified manner. This will make them feel understood and does not require you to think about the right thing to say.
Validate their thoughts and guide them towards finding a resolution.
No one likes to be told what to do. However, if you help guide them towards reaching their solution, they will be much more likely to take action. Ask them questions to guide them towards reaching a solution. You must allow them to figure out their own solution, refrain from just telling them the answer even if it’s very obvious for you.
Take away: People do the best they can with the current knowledge and experience they have. Do not judge them. Instead, help them learn and grow
Active listening: try to listen twice as much as you talk. The most basic human need is the need to be understood. Some people take a while to articulate what they want and need, so give them time.
Ask questions: Asking questions shows that you are engaged and interested. Sometimes problems resolve themselves by asking the right questions!
Be clear: Having a long and convoluted conversation will leave both people feeling confused with no resolution in sight. Get to the point and be as clear as you can.
Non-verbal communication: About half of our communication is done without words, such as facial expression, gestures, posture, tone of voice and eye contact. If you are upset, try to take a few deep breaths before talking. This will help calm your non-verbal signs.
Summarize: After a conversation, you can summarize the key points you talked about. Each person should repeat what actions they are going to take to resolve the problem.
Be empathetic: Empathy is the ability to understand and feel other’s emotions. By seeing things from their perspective, it can help resolve any issue a lot quicker. This can also help build trust and respect for one another.
Constructive feedback: Providing honest feedback can be difficult and awkward. However, it is essential to establish expectations.
Develop trust: Trust occurs on practical and emotional levels. Practical trust can be built by proving yourself as a reliable person. Emotional trust occurs when people know you will treat them with kindness and respect, without being judgmental.
Not giving your undivided attention: Avoid talking about important topics while you are watching television or not looking at the person.
Using technical language: Avoid using acronyms or technical language that may be misinterpreted.
Judging others: Avoid judging anyone you are communicating with. For example, don’t assume someone doesn’t care. Avoid saying things like “didn’t you understand what I just said?”
Giving unwanted advice: Avoid telling people what to do. This will shut down their minds to accepting what you have to say.
Communication is a vital component of any relationship. Complete the below self reflection exercise ‘Communicate LUV’ to check your understanding.