In today's busy world, good communication is a tremendous asset. Without clear communication and listening skills there are bound to be costly troubles in your relationships; whether they be personal or business.
The core of good interpersonal skills is being able to speak your mind clearly, to accurately hear what is being said to you, and to respond in a manner that allows you to be heard and understood. Conflict is inevitable in every relationship, but without good communication skills conflicts escalate. If conflicts aren't handled in effective ways then the cost is a failed relationship.
We all want to feel heard and understood and there are many things that get in the way of that. This is mostly due to our inability to clearly state our message and to our inability to effectively listen. Too often, when in the middle of a heated discussion, we veer off course by bringing up past hurts or blaming the other person. We also tend to stop listening when we are feeling intense emotions.
In order to prevent the break-up of relationships, here are some basic techniques that will help you to communicate clearly and effectively.
- Start off by telling the other person why it's important to you to work things out with him/her. This is a good strategy to help the other person to feel strong enough to hear you as well as to feel invested in staying in the relationship with you. If s/he feels invested and buoyed up then s/he will tend to feel less defensive and be better able to hear you.
- Stay focused on what it is you are saying. Do not bring up extraneous, past or trivial information that is not immediately relevant to the issue at hand.
- It's best to use "I" statements such as "I feel hurt when we argue" rather than "you are such a bully." Using "you" statements makes you sound like a bully. Be clear and specific in your complaint. Don't overgeneralize by saying things like "you always" or "you never." The other person will stop listening to you and your message won't be heard.
- As the listener, be prepared to repeat (also known as reflect) back to the communicator what it is you heard. You can paraphrase what was said. This lets the person doing the talking know that you heard and understood what s/he was saying.
Putting these skills to work for you can improve your relationships immensely. As with any new skill you have to practice a lot to be a good communicator. Remember, communicating isn't just talking, it's listening and paying attention!