I have often said that stress-free communication requires some simple things such as 1) Open-mindedness, and 2) a willingness to avoid a victimhood mindset at all costs.
The truth is that, while these things are important, they are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of tools and ideas we can cultivate to communicate more efficiently and effectively!
What Is Effective Communication?
Communication is far more than exchanging bits of info from one person to another. Effective communication is a method of understanding the reasoning behind the information, the cause, effect, and potentially the emotions and “human-ness” of the information shared.
Information can be dangerous, friendly, biased, neutral, or anything else under the sun. This is because information is passed through the filters of our mind in order to be stored and translated to others. Often, the filters through which this information sifts are hard to pinpoint, locate, explain, and justify.
Tony Robbins famously explained a longstanding truth about human nature in one of his talks. He mentions that human efforts are constantly reinforced to do 1 (or both) of 2 things, to avoid pain, and gain pleasure. Pain and pleasure are our resulting emotional dictators.
Ultimately, today I wish to effectively inform you of the ways in which we can communicate well with others. Perhaps in doing so, we can begin to build a future that is founded with understanding and not judgment.
Steps to Effective Communication
Here are some insights and ideas as to how you can cultivate a mindset of open and clear communication.
Clear Emotional Barriers
Emotional barriers are common pitfalls to communicating with purpose. Being overly emotional and/or “pointed” with your comments may make the recipient feel attacked and targeted from the start.
Often, because so much useful communication is needed due to conflicts, this point is entirely overlooked. Consider this, conflicts are usually never what they seem to be. Every war that has ever existed can usually boil down to a difference in values.
Instead of “flying off the handle” when someone does something that may anger you, consider the value difference between you. This kind of thinking will often spur a curiosity rather than anger, and make you more willing to openly communicate without judgment, blame, or the like.
Be willing to listen MORE than you speak.
This step is doubly important if you are the instigator of communications. More than just problem resolution, the ability to listen is the most important thing you can do to consistently make people like you.
Great listening ability was mentioned in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Ultimately, people want to feel important in their lives. If you give them their due time by listening to them attentively, you are allowing them to feel important and worthy of your time, which greatly benefits your relationships with others.
Imagine how a normal argument you may have would pan out if you took the time to really listen. Dale Carnegie wrote a short story which I will paraphrase here.
A mother was once having a hard time getting her child to do her chores. After barking orders for the hundredth time, the mother was set out to do something different. That was, to understand why the child was behaving the way she was.
She sat her child down and wished to listen. The child let loose her thoughts and feelings, and the mother started to notice something. The mother realized that she had only ever barked orders to her child and failed to listen. From then on, the mother listened more than she spoke to the child, the child felt heard, appreciated, and eventually did her chores. The relationship between them had improved significantly.
Here is a list of ways that attentive listening can help you in your life.
- Enhanced Productivity
- Improves Relationships
- Improves Negotiations
- Mutual Appreciation
- Better Understanding
- Avoids Conflicts
Listening is great, but there is a difference between listening attentively and listening covertly. Covert listening is similar to formulating a thought only with the goal to respond to somebody who is speaking. Everybody is guilty of this at some point or another.
Trying to form a response before somebody is done speaking is not truly listening. It is often a byproduct of being distracted or having your attention elsewhere. True listening takes into account all that a person says, the points and reasoning behind the words, and the emotions that the words convey.
Being open-minded means you direct the conversation in no certain direction. It means you “go with the flow” and are willing to accept different ideas that make up the other person’s “realities”.
There is no true reality, only perceptive reality. And as we know, perceptions are easily fooled. Consider this, you can never truly tell somebody they are wrong, every difference in “truth” can be based on the difference between our personal “realities”.
This is the basis for open-mindedness. Aristotle says, “It is the mark of an intelligent mind to consider a perspective without submitting to it their agreeance.”
What Aristotle means is this, always look for new perspectives, seek them out, because they often tell us more about a person and situation than you could otherwise deduce.
Any argument has two perspectives. Negotiations have two perspectives. Your perspective is no more or less “true” than any other person’s perspective.
Communication Tips and Tricks
Curious as to how you can immediately alter your ability to effectively communicate? Look no further! Here we will be discussing some simple but effective ways in which you can learn to be a good communicator.
When listening, try to lean your right ear in.
Yeah, I mean it. The truth is that the left side of the brain is the processing center for communication (verbal) and emotions. The left side of your brain controls the right side of your body and vice versa. Therefore, by leaning in your right ear, you will be allowing yourself a greater sensitivity to the emotional nuances that you can gather from the tone and verbiage of the speaker’s voice.
A big part of effective communication is in making the other person feel heard. Allowing the other person to express themselves without judgment and ensuring that you hear what they are saying with an occasional nod or gesture ensures them that they are getting through.
Similarly, look for these things in others as you talk to them, they may be great indicators of your ability to speak and whether or not you are being heard.
Body language is a big one. Did you know that the interpretation of a message is 7% verbal, 38% tone of voice, and 55% Visual?! That is a whopping 93% non-verbal interpretation. This is why body language and tone of voice are key factors in communicating effectively.
Body language includes things such as gestures, breathing, muscle tension, facial cues, eye contact, and posture, just to name a few. Ultimately, learning how to master these can mean the difference between responsive communication and miscommunication.
Because so much of communication is nonverbal, if you say something but do something else, you will seem dishonest and untrustworthy. This is why “talk is cheap” and, “we are what we repeatedly do.” and not what we repeatedly say.
In any organization, there are, what I call, miscommunication costs.
Miscommunication Costs: The expensive costs incurred as a result of mistakes, false blame, lack of potential communication, and consequent lack of motivation that are resultant of miscommunication in any social structure. The difference between the real performance, and minimum expectations.
Ultimately, miscommunication can be costly, in emotional vitality, organizational leadership, and yes, even money.
Avoid a Negatively Presupposed Mindset
A negatively presupposed mindset can occur due to many things. Perhaps it’s the immediate emotional overflow of an argument, the stress that occurs under a deadline, even the unmet expectations we have for our lives and the people in them.
Ultimately, allowing yourself to come to a natural balance and regain emotional stability before a discussion is the best solution. Speaking with highly emotional outbursts can be like sending daggers with your words, they never help a situation.
Allow yourself time to think, gather and clarify your thoughts. Only when you know what to say can you say it effectively to others. Don’t go into a discussion expecting everything to go perfectly, doing so is a recipe for disaster. Instead, go in with the willingness to learn.
Taking care of emotional outbursts ensures that you are fit for making your point clearly and without question.
Don’t be Afraid to be Assertive
You need to value yourself, your opinions, and your feelings. You cannot allow the fear of an interview, negotiation, discussion, or potential argument to strip away your desires.
Become clear as to what you wish to gain, and the future you wish to create through your communication. Doing so will constantly keep the purpose and end-goal in mind, and likely inspire you to take action. You must chase what you want in life.
Decide to feel positive, and express negativity in a positive way. No person ever regretted giving love to others, even when those others may have deserved condemnation.
Decide to be open to feedback. Remember, there are multiple perspectives here. Your truth is no more or less real than theirs, so compromises are not only healthy but common.
Say “no” when absolutely necessary. Times when saying “no” may be necessary include but aren’t limited to…
- When you are being taken advantage of.
- When no agreement can be reached.
- When the other party is not willing to compromise or simply consider your perspective.
- When you decide the costs are not worth the benefits.
These are only a few of the situations in which it might benefit you and your future to forgo communications.
Ultimately, effective communication is about taking away as much bias as possible from your viewpoint, considering the perspectives of others, and deciding to understand before being understood (Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).
Not every confrontation may go your way, and that is a fact of life. You have the power to decide what you wish your life contains and what you don’t. Allow yourself the self-love and emotional control to pursue agreements with your fellow people, to cultivate positive relationships with a basis of understanding, and a peaceful future with mutual benefits for everybody.