We all like to be heard and understood. We enjoy knowing that our opinions are valued, and that our communications with others are effective and fulfilling. In starting the New Year with self-improvement in mind, I’ve compiled from friends, colleagues, personal experience, as well as Forbes, Inc, a list of 5 suggestions that will help our interactions with others be rewarding and productive.
1. Listen. It’s ironic that one of the best ways to effectively communicate is to say nothing. To be a good listener:
- Make eye contact, put distractions aside, and resist the tendency to think of a response while the other person is talking. Let them finish their complete thought. This can be hard to do, especially if the speaker is being critical of us. When we refrain from becoming defensive, we can then understand what is motivating them, and what their true issue is. Only then will we be able to verbalize a healthy and productive response.
- Let your speaker feel valued and interesting – people love to talk about their own experiences.
- When listening to a child, get down on their level in order to have eye contact, giving what they say importance and value.
2. Clarify. My friend January Sadler is a nurse who works with six different doctors in a cancer clinic. There is no room in her profession for misunderstandings. She verbally repeats the details of the Drs’ orders so there is no chance of a patient getting the wrong medication or dosage. Thankfully, not all details of clear communication are this potentially dire, but we can avoid needless misunderstandings and frustrations simply by clarifying the information we’ve been given. Use phrases such as, “I hear you saying…”, repeating back what they have said. This gives validation to the person, as well as allowing clarity and accuracy from the conversation.
3. Find your own voice. This from Forbes. Use language that is distinctly your own. Of course you want to use correct grammar, especially when giving a presentation, but resist the temptation to fixate on eloquence – be YOU. People want real. People respect and follow real. Refrain from disguising who you are, and people will recognize and honor you for it.
4. Be open, honest, and straightforward. Helpful advice from my good friend Nicole Graf, founder of Expect a Victory. No one appreciates hearing things through the grapevine. If you have a concern with a person, summon some courage and approach them directly. Sometimes our tendency is to “beat around the bush”, thinking that we are softening our message. But oftentimes this results in confusion and frustration, as the listener has to try to interpret our mixed signals. Start this kind of conversation with a sincere compliment, telling the person what they are doing right – they will appreciate the praise, and be more apt to listen to and resolve your complaint.
5. Keep your word! Don’t make promises you know you won’t or can’t keep. Nothing will cause you to lose credibility faster. Always follow through. Sometimes we genuinely intend to fulfill a commitment, but unforeseen events prevent us from keeping our word. A rule of thumb: it’s better to say nothing or delay your communication until you’re certain your actions will ring true.
I’m sure there are other things you can add to this list, according to your circumstances and distinct personality traits. But this should give you a good start to the New Year as you assess your relationships, and evaluate how you can improve your communications with those around you. Remember how nice it is to be heard, complimented, and understood – reflect that back to others and watch your interactions and relationships thrive.
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