Communication can be hard, messy, and totally ineffective OR Communication can lead to greater understanding, camaraderie, and success. Communication happens all the time. Good communication is rewarding, enjoyable, and builds connections. Bad communication can create distance, uncertainty, and can damage a relationship or business venture. Communication skills are essential to success in life and business, yet in our 12 years of schooling, we rarely take classes in better communication skills.
While we communicate both verbally and non verbally, most of us focus on verbal communication - the actual words being spoken. While listening to words is important, these three simple skills will help you focus on verbal communication, and gain greater understanding of what is actually being communicated.
Using these three skills can change the outcome of your conversations and positively impact relationships because everyone wants to be heard and understood. When a friend, loved one, or business associate comes to you with an issue that is bothering them, a new idea to pitch, or is seeking your advice and input, use these three ways to enjoy better communication. Better communication yields better relationships!
1. Pause and Pay Attention
Pausing allows you to give your full attention and really listen to what the other person is communicating. So often we are busy waiting for the other person to stop talking, so we can share our point of view. We may “hear” the words they are saying, but are often not really listening. Pausing slows us down and shifts the focus. We stop thinking about our response; we listen more carefully and seek to understand their message, feelings, and thoughts. This is extremely helpful when the conversation is tense or conflictual. When we feel listened to or heard, often the intensity drops, the tension shifts and resolution is easier to attain.
2. Clarify and Validate
When you are listening, do everything in your power to resist the temptation to get defensive, explain, or justify. Instead, choose to clarify and validate. This skill quickly improves communication because most people assume a rebuttal, correction, explanation, or justification is coming. Instead, you ask them to clarify by saying, “Can you share more to help me understand your thoughts and feelings?” or “What I hear you saying is ____; is that correct?” Clarifying helps you accurately understand their message.
After they pick their chin off the ground in surprise, continue to listen and find a place where you can validate their thoughts, feelings, or perspective. Even if you think they are 99% wrong, even if you disagree with almost everything, make every effort to find something you can validate. You may say, “I can understand how you would feel that way.” Or “ If I were in your situation, I would be upset, as well.” Pausing and paying attention will help you ferret out something you can validate! Clarifying and validating lowers the other person’s defenses and builds a bridge for better communication.
3. Observe Nonverbal Communication
If you want to excel at communication then become a student of nonverbal communication to gain a deeper understanding of their message. We communicate not only with our words, but our tone, facial expressions, and body language. Imagine the spouse, kid, coworker, or friend, who says, “I’m fine!” in a high pitched or angry tone, with a furrowed brow and their arms firmly crossed. Their words say one thing, while all their nonverbal clues communicate something very different! Or picture a meeting where one of the participants is “loudly silent,” harrumphing in response to what is being said, or communicating disagreement in their posture, and shaking their head. Not a word was uttered, but a lot was communicated. Noticing and taking nonverbal communication into account can shift the tone of a tense conversation, unblock a stalemate, and create understanding.
Try implementing these three skills the next time you are in a conversation. Whether its a work colleague, a teenager, your spouse, or a friend, these skills will help your conversation be more effective, create deeper understanding and thus a better relationship.
I think relationships are the stuff of life - Personal ones, professional ones, even relationship with ourselves. I help individuals, couples and businesses create better personal and professional relationships in 30 Days or less, so you can maximize your success in business and happiness in life! As an author, speaker, and coach, with over 25 years of experience in this field, plus 34 years of marriage, I am passionate about the power of relationships! You can find my bestselling book, Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less! on Amazon.
Plus I’ve been featured on great sites like, Forbes, The Good Men Project, and Success Media. Connect with me @ SusieMiller.com and on FB.