We hear it all the time, to have a successful relationship we HAVE to communicate. There is very little time spent on teaching us how to do that effectively which can lead to a lot of words being spoken and very few being heard. I have found a few tips that have helped my conversations become much more fruitful and my relationships much stronger.
1. Tune in to the Conversation: There can be many tasks that are taking our attention away at any given time and this can be a bit distracting. Make the effort to be an active listener by tuning your mind and body to the conversation at hand. This is a learned trait and will take a lot of practice so make an effort in every conversation and eventually it will be natural to completely focus on each conversation you have.
2. Play to Your Strengths: Communicate at the times and places that you are most relaxed and most focused. If you have something especially important to talk about then set up the time and place so it is mutually beneficial and you will get the best out of the conversation. When you are not awake and alert you are less likely to stay focused on the topic or communicate effectively.
3. Be Honest and Expect Honesty in Return: Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to effective communication. Make sure you are clear with your conversation partner about what you mean and ask them to clarify if you are unclear about how they feel about the topic at hand. Most conversation gets bogged down by misunderstandings or vagueness because we are too afraid to upset others. You can express your genuine feelings while still doing so in a respectful manner, and you should expect that your conversation partner to be honest with you at times, so don’t overreact.
4. Monitor the Temperature of the Water: Some conversations can slide into ineffectiveness when we get a little too heated. If you find that the topic is stressing out either you or a partner take a break to take a quick breath or lighten the mood with a tension breaker. Don’t let the conversation dictate the pace and end up being carried away by hot emotions. Feel free to slow down the conversation if you feel overwhelmed or feel that your words are getting lost.
5. There is no winner or loser: If you are looking to win the conversation then you are going to lose out in the long run. Conversation can have many goals, solve a problem, build a relationship, resolve a misunderstanding, but the goal should never be to “win” the fight. When you focus on being the winner you stop listening to your partner and you don’t look for constructive routes of communication. Look for a solution to your problem at hand or simply use the conversation to effectively understand multiple solutions. It is okay to “stalemate” or agree to disagree because there is no prize for being the winner and your partner just leaves feeling like they were not heard.
6. Remember you are Friends/Family First: Conversation should help you build up your relationship, not hurt it. Keep in mind that everyone that you converse with is different so they have different needs in communicating. At the base of every meaningful conversation are people who genuinely care about each other; that is why you are spending the time talking in the first place. Keep focused on building up your relationship with that person instead of just the short term goal of the conversation at hand.
7. Keep it Light: There are many serious matters that we have to communicate about in our daily lives but that doesn’t mean we have to be super serious. When you are tense or uncomfortable you are less likely to communicate effectively so remind yourself to do a few quick de-stressing techniques before, during, and after your conversation. You will be better focused, more positive, and best yet a great conversationalist!
Photo Credit: http://www.bridalbuds.com/2009/03/a-breakdown-in-communication/