The goal of effective communication is mutual understanding. Often, we forget that communicating is an art. They are so many little pieces that play an important role in the way we communicate to others such as our verbal expression (written, oral, and visual) and nonverbal communication such as our body language.
I would like to review with you some helpful ideas about how to express yourself when things are difficult to communicate. Remember to practice the following three main skills of communication:
How to Speak
- Be Specific: define the problem or name the main feeling present.
- Listeners are not mind readers, and it is unlikely that others will know what you are wanting or feeling if you leave them guessing.
- Say Less
- Silence is helpful when emotions are strong, you feel stressed out or tired. It is very common that during those times you say things that you do not mean.
- Avoid the temptation to exaggerate or escalate the situation to a magnitude that is out of proportion.
- Stay focused on the issue at hand.
- Getting off track and bringing up old issues is confusing and irritating to others.
- Keep comments descriptive.
- Avoid speaking criticism, blaming and sarcasm. “I” statements are more helpful to the conversation.
How to Listen
- Receive Criticism Successfully
- Act like a coffee filter: strain out the emotional grounds (fear or anger) from the real facts.
- Be receptive to what is said without offering advice
- At times you might believe that the speaker is wrong, and it will be so good to tell her/ him what to do. However, even when the advice is eventually followed, the listening piece it highly important.
- It is best to listen, to show support and to let the feelings be heard before giving any advice.
- Wait for your turn and listen first.
- Concentrate on the words and pay close attention to the nonverbal gestures.
- Listen with Empathy
- Try to understand the other’s perspective and to empathize with it.
How to Respond
- Be honest
- Express yourself in a manner that is it congruent with yourself. You can say: “I understand why you feel that way” or maybe “I am having a hard time understanding the reasons you feel that way”
- Validating and accepting the speaker’s feelings does not mean that you are agree with them.
- Check your interpretations
- Listen to what is said, and check with the speaker to be sure that what you heard is what the speaker meant.
- Check for accuracy by asking the speaker: “Do I understand you to mean…?” Or “Did you say…?”
- Get all the facts before making any decision.
- Ask the speaker to clarify anything that you don’t understand. Do not assume that you got it all without checking in.
- Listen to Yourself
- Review yourself. Do you have a positive/negative attitude? What is your tone of voice? Are you sending the wrong messages?