Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Essential Link

Civilizations have been built and destroyed, battles lost and won and partnerships dissolved or spared by the most important, tool in the ‘human survival kit’; communication. How would our lives be different if we said what we exactly what we wanted to? How would our decisions be modified if we really understood where the other party was coming from? How much further ahead would we be if we could digest information without taking things personally? Lets do something about it!

If we agree with the definition of communication as ‘a mutual exchange of information to express and share thoughts, ideas & sentiments’, we can progress into the important subject matter of preventing communication breakdowns. Here are five easy steps to communicating effectively:

Say exactly what you want.
Listen to what is being said instead of imagining what’s not.
Ask yourself ‘why’ the sender is relaying this message to you.
Address one topic at a time.
Ask the recipient to clarify your message, in their words.
Utilize the correct module of communication.

Stating exactly what you want eliminates confusion, interpretation error and ‘mixed’ messages. We are conditioned to communicate ‘sympathetically’ in order no to appear brash and forward, however you can get to the point in a tactful way and maintain a clear conscience. Getting straight to the point minimizes the change of being misunderstood. Inevitably, you will have to get there anyways, so why distort the issue with distracting information. The faster you table the points, the sooner you reach solutions.

When you listen to dialogue with the intention of understanding the senders’ point of view you increase the likelihood of benefiting from the transaction. Too many times, we are unable to put ourselves in others shoes and end up discrediting the information they are sending because its not how we feel. Few deliverers may have the confidence to master rule #1, hence recipients must be able to access if information is not being directly communicated and ask for clarification if they cannot deduce it. Most times, people take great comfort in just being listened to. Refrain from disagreeing with a point of view, because it is how the other party truly feels. Often, people will communicate around issues or say things that are not music to your ears. As you become proficient at rule #3, you will know who’s looking out for your best interest and who intends malice.

Pay attention to what is being communicated to you and by whom. All messages are communicated for a reason, which regardless of your perception, need to be respected and understood (validation). When you dismiss a question you do not deem important or relevant through your actions or words, you close the door on future dialogue. Often, simple questions are precursors to deeper issues. Exhaust every effort to understand the message. By asking yourself why this message is being sent, you are able to intelligently disseminate how you can take that feedback and make improvements to be a better spouse, partner, employer, employee and more.

It is usually in the heat of adversity when the sender discloses all the messages they have been attempting to send, at once. How many times, has an argument escalated into a verbal battle that had nothing to do with its origin? It is important to completely finish one topic of discussion regardless of the severity, before addressing another. By doing so, there will not be a backlog of information that has not been worked through. Force yourself to tackle one issue at a time and stay on track during a conversation, even if it is not going the way you want. If things do get off track, make a concerted effort to return to the main issue and resolve that first.

Asking the recipient to repeat the message you are trying to communicate minimizes the possibility of an interpretation error. It is advantageous to request the playback in ‘one’s own words’ in order to force others to think about the message they have received before they reply. You will be astonished at the discrepancies that can occur simply from sender to receiver which allow you to restate some of your main points. If you are able to implement this on a more frequent basis you would walk away from conversations knowing the level of success achieved at communicating thoughts & feelings.

Lastly, there are 3 modes of communication. 1 way communication occurs where one person speaks and provides feedback or directive to another without giving them an opportunity to respond. Coaching, or authoritative situations are suitable for this type of communication, yet it is not an appropriate measure in daily interactions. 2 way communication occurs when two people are engaged in 1 way communication. This is the most common style of communication and people end up re-visting the same issues at a later date because, neither was listening. Rather, they were simply waiting for ‘their turn’ to verbalize. This communication is not effective. Transactional communication occurs when 1 person speaks and the other person listens with the intention of understanding that message. All of the aforementioned characteristics surface in this style of communication and it is the most effective way of achieving results.

Think about how effectively you communicate with your spouse, children, employee’s etc. Are you addressing the same issues over again? Do you find issues continue to escalate until a breaking point? Are you frustrated because you are not being listened to? If you answered yes to any of these questions perhaps its time for you to examine more effective methods of communication. Implementing some of the aforementioned tips will pave the way to a smoother communication highway.

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