Updated: Oct 21, 2019
The ability to communicate well with others is a skill which must be learned and practiced. Here are some behavioral goals which have been shown to get good results:
Goal #1 is to talk openly and honestly. It is essential to create a safe space where thoughts and feelings can be expressed freely.
Goal #2 is to maintain a relaxed, non-aggressive posture and tone. Since most communication is non-verbal, we need to be mindful of what our voice, tone and mannerisms are telling the other person. Pointing your finger in someone’s face or glaring at them with your hands on your hips will likely lead to an attack-defend routine. It’s best to sit down when discussing touchy subjects, if possible.
Goal #3 is to be courteous. Respect goes a long way. If we are sensitive to what bothers others we can avoid doing things that will lead to more arguments. It is always important to remember we are trying to communicate; disrespect is a major roadblock to healthy communication.
Goal #4 is to use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. (Example: “When I see these dirty clothes on the floor I feel angry. I have asked many times that they be picked up and when it’s not done I feel ignored and angry.” Compared to: “You left your clothes on the floor again! You keep doing this, even though you’ve been told 100 times not to. You are an inconsiderate slob.”) ‘You’ statements will make the other person to put up a wall of defenses. To improve your chances of being heard, try being more conscious about using ‘I’ statements. Blame and criticism hinder good communication. Anger and frustration, appropriately expressed, are okay.
Goal #5 is to remember there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ person. There are only differences in perception and opinion. The primary objective is for all parties to understand where the other person is coming from—not to try to make someone the bad-guy and someone else the victim. Although it is important to acknowledge when we make mistakes, apologies can’t be forced out of people. Even if you win an argument and your partner ‘loses,’ you both may lose. The resentment your partner feels will eventually be unleashed in some way, so aim for a respectful, win-win outcome: having a respectful conversation where all parties feel heard, validated, respected and some kind of mutual understanding is reached.
Goal #6 is to agree to disagree. No two people are likely to ever agree on everything. We can’t control the minds of other people. We can’t force our views onto anyone and it’s a waste of energy to try. Agree on what can be agreed upon and let the rest go. People form their ideas and opinions from a place that is valid for them and we are wise to try to respect their perspective and focus on any common ground, shared ideas or common goals.
Goal #7 is to try to summarize what the other person said and communicate it back to them so they can see if you have understood them or not. This is a process called ‘mirroring’ and it provides an opportunity to validate or correct what is heard.
Goal #8 is to be patient and kind. Everyone says they love their family or partner, but are you patient with them? Are you kind? It doesn’t matter if we tell someone we love them a million times, they won’t feel loved unless we treat them lovingly.
Goal #9 is to convey empathy and compassion. When we are able to drop our expectations and defenses we’re free to understand the feelings behind someone’s actions or opinions. This understanding is key in making sense out of other people’s motivations. Putting ourselves in another’s shoes helps us imagine what they might be thinking and feeling which is very helpful in communicating our understanding of their feelings back to them (mirroring), allowing them to feel heard and understood. When people don’t feel heard, understood and validated, we tend to have the same arguments over and over.
Goal #10 is to avoid major communication blocks like defensiveness, judgments, blame and criticism. These are communication killers. These communication blocks feel like an attack, and they invite people to attack you back; then you are fighting, not communicating.
Goal #11 is to listen, really listen. Listen without thinking of a response, with both ears and your heart too. Listening is the foundation of all good communication. Ask questions and then more questions. Asking questions is a great feature of communication which elicits more of the story, allowing people to get to the root of the matter by focusing on whatever deeper feelings and motivations may be underneath the surface.
©2019 by Imaginabulous LLC, All rights reserved.