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Communication Basics

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Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.

This is part 2 in my series on communication.

Part 1 – Learning to Communicate: 12 Tips

When I’m talking about communication, I am not referring to texting or e-mails or words on a page. I am talking about a face-to-face exchange of ideas. We have a message to send and a message to be received.

Communication breakdown is nothing new.

How often are the messages we send received with the same objective we had in mind? How often do we hear something other than what was intended?

When the communication is among family members and trusted friends, we want that communication to be as honest and genuine as possible.

Our messages go through a filtering system that can color and distort.

We speak and hear from our own experiences, from how we feel in the moment, from our perceptions, and from our interpretations of life.

Knowing this can eliminate a lot of misinterpretations. The more we know another, the more we can take those differences into consideration. But life often intervenes, and things are said one way and heard another.

A significant part of communication is listening.

A good speaker will try to state exactly what he or she is thinking, wanting, or feeling.

The listener can verify what they heard by asking for verification instead of just assuming or filling in the blanks. While it may sound pedantic, clarification can eliminate a lot of misinterpretation.

Feedback lets the other person know what you heard is accurate.

It not only clarifies what was spoken but what interpretation you made. Behaviors often contradict words spoken. When instructions are given it is important that you repeat exactly what was said. At other times, paraphrase what you heard.

Give feedback in some way to be sure you heard accurately.

Here are some communication basics

Listen and Validate

When speaking, state exactly what you are thinking, wanting, or feeling. Use “I” statements.

When listening, make sure you understand what the speaker is saying – the intent, not just the content. We do that by asking questions or giving feedback on what we heard, to clarify, instead of just filling in the gaps with assumptions or guesses.

Provide Feedback

Feedback is telling the other person what you believe was said. You don’t just assume. It prevents resentment, irritation, and incorrect inference about motives.

“Let me be sure I understood you. Did you mean…?”

If the conversation is turning into an argument, ask for a stop action or time out to lower emotional levels, so you can re-focus.

“Let’s stop a minute. I think we are getting away from the problem at hand.”

Messages contain both content and emotional meaning.

“I am upset that you have made different plans.”

Give feedback by clarifying, paraphrasing, or perception checks.

When someone gives you directions or a timeline, clarify by repeating back exactly what you heard.

Paraphrase what was said in your own words. Paraphrasing explores the meaning of what was said. It does not mean the person is being disrespectful or insulting.

“I heard you say _____________. Is that true?”

“Did you say __________?”

“Do you mean _____________?”

Perception checks describe the other person’s feelings. It is not used to express disapproval or approval but simply conveys the desire to better understand how the other is feeling.

“This is how I understand your feelings. Am I accurate?”

“I get the impression you are angry with me when you become quiet. Are you?”

“Am I right that you feel disappointed when your mother criticized you?”

“I am not sure if you are confused or angry with me.”

The next time you are in a conversation and you find yourself getting irritated, check your feeling state and what is going on in your life at that time.

Check the things that might be making your conversation tense for potential misunderstanding, and make adjustments.

If you are a listener, do the same and use the skills of paraphrasing, feedback and clarification to resolve the problem.

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