Why is it so hard to talk to one another? Unless you’re a recluse, it’s something we all do every day. Perhaps because I’m a motivational speaker, author, and radio host I can talk ad infinitum. I actually find it enjoyable and relatively easy. Yet there is a significant difference between talking and communicating: talking involves only one person, communication includes at least one additional person. Although everyone is speaking the same language, it’s not uncommon to become frustrated and angry with each other.
Communication is a skill most of us were not taught as children. Granted, we’ve all learned to assemble words in a coherent manner to convey a thought or make a statement. I politely instruct my husband to put the empty ice cream container in the garbage rather than in the sink yet somehow the package consistently needs my assistance in the morning. Either he doesn’t hear me (not!) or doesn’t understand my request. (I think he just ignores me.)
Misunderstandings and miscommunication can easily lead to frustration and anger. However, being able to converse effectively involves not only a series of well constructed verbal expressions but equally as important are proficient listening skills. Without both, our levels of tolerance decrease significantly while frustration (a root cause of anger) begins to rise, lending itself to angry outbursts. So how can one improve their communication skills so as to lessen the chances of becoming angry?
1. Use a level and style of speaking that the other party can relate to. I speak differently to my grandchildren than I do to my kids. Likewise, my style of conversing is altered when addressing the CEO of AT&T to discuss an upcoming training I’m about to conduct. Know your partner and adjust your style so that they can more easily relate to you and comprehend your message. Use common terms easily recognizable by the other party.
2. Be crystal clear and detail-specific. There’s a news commentator that tries to be clever and poetic. I am always at a loss for what he is saying. I feel stupid, confused, and frustrated. Needless to say, I have switched news channels. When discussing a contract with a new client, I am extremely attentive to explaining my services in great detail so there is no question as to what I will and will not provide.
3. Be brief. When I’m with my best friends, Arlene and Michelle, we can talk for hours. With my husband his attention span lasts approximately ninety seconds. Each individual has a point at which they lose interest or are unable to process any more information. Be mindful and keep your discussions brief.
4. Non verbal communication speaks volumes, in fact, 85% worth. Make certain your body and mouth are working in harmony with one another.
5. Repeat back to the other person what you think you heard them say. We each hear things through the filters of our life experiences and beliefs. “So, what I heard you say is that you will take the garbage out after you’ve completed your homework?” In that way, I am allowing the other person the opportunity to correct any misunderstanding immediately. Ask questions to gain greater clarity if necessary.
6. Listen with the intent to understand. Too often, while the other person is speaking we are already formulating our response. Carefully digest each word they are saying. Pause. Then reply.
7. Always speak with kindness and respect. No one needs to earn either of these. They are God-given birth rights bestowed upon each of us. Use them generously. They will serve you well.
Communication is a skill we all need to master and, when accomplished, can make our interactions with others much less stressful and far more rewarding. A few simple techniques can make all the difference in the world. We all have enough stress in our lives. Let’s make our conversations with one another a joyful and effortless experience. And throw in a smile for good measure.