7 Habits Of Highly Effective Communicators
Many of us take our communication style for granted. We just say what we’re thinking. We might assume that what we’re thinking is “common sense.” Maybe we don’t give much thought to how what we’re saying may land with the receiver. What might happen if we considered the following in some or all of our conversations:
- What do I hope to achieve with this statement?
- Is this statement designed to make the other person feel good?
- Is voicing this thought absolutely necessary?
- Am I trying to control a person or an outcome with this statement?
- Is there a way that I can phrase this statement that will make it easier for the receiver to hear?
Of course, there isn’t always time to consider everything we say for a few minutes before we say it, nor is that necessary. But if we can practice some of the elements of effective communication, they will eventually become habits that help us get more of what really matters to us.
Here are 7 Habits of Highly Effective Communicators
- Use I Messages
When we begin a sentence with “you” (“You always leave dirty dishes around the house”), most people feel blamed and defensive, and start preparing for an argument. Instead, try using the formula for I Messages. They are much easier to hear because we are talking about ourselves and our own feelings, instead of suggesting that the listener is at fault.
The following formula works well:
I feel ___________ when ___________________ because _______________.
- I feel frustrated when the house is messy because I spend a lot of time cleaning it. NOT You always leave your stuff everywhere and I’m tired of picking up after you.
- I feel hurt when you go out with your friends every Saturday night because I look forward to spending that time alone with you. NOT You spend all your time with your buddies and you never spend any time with me.
- I feel hurt and embarrassed when you make comments like that in front of other people because it makes me the butt of the joke. NOT I’m sick of you picking on me every time we’re with friends, just to get a laugh.* (*although this sentence does start with I, it does not follow the formula for an I message and is clearly designed to assign blame to the listener)
- Focus on the present instead of generalizing to the past or the future
It feels very controlling to have someone tell you what you will do before you do it, or to assume that you can’t change and do something different.
- Really listen
Make an effort to really understand what the other person is saying before trying to make yourself understood. Be patient – you will have your turn to speak.
- Stop saying the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result
We fall into traps of having the same conversations (or arguments) over and over, like a dance. We can even predict how the other person will respond. If saying something 1000 times hasn’t got us what we wanted, what makes us think it will work on the 1001st? Try something different.
- Be conscious of body language
Speak softer and slower, make eye contact, watch your hand gestures and how you are sitting. Even your tone of voice can send a very different message than the words.
Pick a time to talk when both parties are relaxed and have time to really communicate. At the very least, wait to discuss when the situation is current but not boiling hot.
- Respect and Understanding
Come to the conversation with the intention to resolve the conflict or improve your relationship, not to vent your anger, assign blame or “be right.”
To communicate effectively:
As speakers we need to make our intentions clear by being specific about how we feel and what we need
As listeners, we must check our assumptions by asking sensitive, clarifying questions to further our understanding
A little while ago, I wrote a newsletter about Resolving Conflict in relationships.
Is it really possible to fight fair in a marriage?
What about as parents? How well do you listen to your kids?