Everyone has at least one thing that they are good at in life. Some are good at making others laugh, others are natural organisers, and some are fantastic communicators. All these skills, however, are essential at some point in our lives – and if you don’t know how to communicate effectively, it can have a damning effect on many areas of your life.
Here are nine golden rules for effective communication that you can use in your home, workplace and business:
Learn to listen
The breakdown in communication between two people often stems for misunderstanding. It can be something that is very important or insignificant, but not understanding someone often comes about because we have failed to listen to them.
Listening means you are giving someone else the space to explain without interrupting them, and away from any distractions – phone, email or other people. You give them your undivided attention and really listen to them without interrupting them, and without answering in your mind, or making your mind up about what they have or haven’t said – all you do is listen.
Be open to what they are saying
Yes, your colleague may be a nuisance, but if you always go to meetings with preconceived ideas, they will pick up on this instantly and your attempts at communicating with them will collapse at the first hurdle.
Being open doesn’t mean that you have to agree or give in or take the blame for something that you have not said or done. It just means you have given free space for communication and enabled them to feel comparable enough to share with you.
Check it out
Everyone wants to know that their feelings, ideas and opinions are important and valued. So, while your child, colleague or spouse is talking to you or expressing themselves, take a moment to repeat what they have said and ask them, “Did I get that right?”. Then, describe some of the underlying feelings they may have based on what they’ve expressed.
If you’re dealing with a crying baby or toddler, the same rule applies. Let them know that you understand why they’re upset, that want them to be happy again and that they will be okay. Validation of your child’s feelings is extremely significant in building their self confidence and self esteem.
The phrase ‘choose your battles’ is a good way to check if your are compromising correctly. Contrary to popular belief, compromising doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war. After you and the person you are trying to communicate with have listened to each other’s perspectives and communicated lovingly, offer some ways to negotiate so that both of your needs are met.
There will be occasions when you have to put your foot down and not allow any of the things that have been requested. Instead, you can suggest some fair alternatives that you can both choose from. In return, ask your or colleague to commit to providing you with some of your needs.
Find a balance between understanding your child’s needs and negotiating without risking responsibility. Depending on your child’s maturity, you can determine the extent of space you give them to make decisions. Be clear about what your expectations will be and agree on those expectations.
While you may be smiling through gritted teeth, and your colleague is completely oblivious to this, your folded arms and confrontational body language is saying the complete opposite, and it will speak at a higher volume than anything that comes out of your mouth.
If you want the conversation to go well, make sure your body language is positive and welcoming. Always maintain eye contact while you are conversing. It shows that you are serious about what you are saying. Avoid crossing your arms and legs as it is extremely symbolic of defensiveness and stubbornness. Sit up straight and look attentive, even if you completely disagree or are fed up.
Your tone is important
You can say the right things, but if your tone is wrong, it won’t help. So, even when you’re annoyed, don’t escalate the tone of your voice. If you feel that you are about yo explode, ask to take a short break, or arrange to continue the conversation at another time, when both parties are calm.
Ditch the attitude
Nobody wants to interact with a person who has a bad attitude. Few people will have the patience or willingness to have a discussion with you if they feel your attitude is poor or sense tension. Try to release all the negative emotions and opinions you have about the situation before you discuss your concerns so you can speak and listen with a clear head.
Teach your children to be honest by being honest with them – your child’s memory is much sharper than you think! When you make promises, make sure you’re able to hold up your end of the bargain. If you’re dishonest with your children, you encourage them to not only be dishonest with you but to other people as well.
Approach disagreements with love
It may sound a little wishes washy in the workplace, but approaching conversations from a place of love will make the person you’re talking to feel it and be receptive to the conversation. Everyone inherently wants to be loved and feel love, so always try to speak and act with benevolence and care. For the most part, people are reactive. If someone is expressing love to us, we will return the sentiment and be open for healthy communication. Try it and see.