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Learning to Communicate: 12 Tips

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I want to continue this new year with the overall theme, “Change Your Focus – Change your Life.”

To develop a new focus that will enrich and empower your life, it is important to examine the patterns you have established over time and identify what is working and what is not.

With insight and understanding, you can change ineffective or even destructive patterns, one step at a time. These new patterns become new life tools you can use successfully every day.

Communication is one important life tool.

How often do you experience misunderstandings that have a negative outcome? Have you stopped and asked why you end up struggling so much to get your point across or to understand the other person? Have you thought about why your conversations end up in fights or misinterpretation?

Ineffective communication results in ongoing irritation and division. Why can’t she or he listen? I keep repeating myself, but it never resolves anything.

Soon we see the other in less than loving ways and relationships begin to unravel. We share our complaints with others instead of working together with our loved ones.

The Primary Goal of Communication

Communication is sending and receiving messages that we hope are understood. It involves words and symbols as well as nonverbal language. And most important, it involves careful listening that hears the other person’s intent and meaning.

Effective communication is an interchange, a conversation or dialogue that involves two-way contact where information, ideas and/or perspectives are exchanged with understanding as the primary goal. It requires that you know what you want to say and how to convey it in such a way that the person hearing understands accurately.

Sounds simple. So why do we have so many problems? Why do we have so much difficulty communicating our thoughts, wishes and desires with another? Is there a pattern occurring that continues this breakdown?

Meaningful Communication

There is so much chatter about insignificant things – the weather, what I had for lunch, who I saw at the store, etc. But communication that is meaningful includes a message and a desired outcome that is important to you. In transferring information, your goal is that the other person will understand what you are trying to convey.

Messages contain both thoughts and feelings. Exchanges are often frustrating because we don’t always say what we really mean. People are often too busy to listen to what is being said. And we have difficulty expressing our emotions that define what we are feeling.

There are so many ways to communicate: texting, Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, podcasts, etc. But that is not the same as talking to a person face-to-face, where we can see the responses and have a discussion about difficult issues, asking for clarification to be sure our intent was heard.

Learning to Communicate: 12 Tips | focuswithmarlene.com

12 Tips for Becoming a Good Communicator

1. Check your internal state.

Are you stressed, anxious, fearful, tired, depressed, etc.? How is that affecting what you are trying to say and how you are saying it?

How you feel inside and how you approach problems will be reflected not only in the words you choose, but by your demeanor, body posture and facial expression.

2. Be aware of your nonverbal cues.

We cannot not communicate.  We communicate both verbally and nonverbally. We pay attention to the body and facial expression first and words second.

Does your body posture and facial expression match what you are saying or what you want to convey?

3. Think before you speak.

Organize information before communicating it. What message are you trying to send? Perhaps it is feelings, wants and needs. Too often something someone said triggers a hasty response.

Try to keep main points together and ask for feedback to assure you were heard correctly. Think, ask questions, and verify.

4. Check your perceptual filters.

We each see the world differently. When you are speaking, how does your perception match that of your listener? What is the intention behind your words? Are you being honest? Do you have a hidden agenda you are not willing to admit to? What kind of response is the other person giving you?

5. Know how to ask for wants and needs.

If you want something, ask for it – don’t automatically assume others will know what you need or want. Don’t assume you will always get what you want.

6. Respect the rights of others.

Respect their space, their feelings, their integrity, and their intelligence. Are you attentive and do you show an interest in the person you are speaking with? Can you reinforce that attentiveness by eye contact, smiling, nodding, and with appropriate gestures?

7. Ask for feedback.

Don’t assume the other person heard everything and automatically understands what you are trying to say.

8. Use reflective language – validate feelings.

People who are emotionally upset, angry, or whose emotions are heightened or mixed may feel they shouldn’t have these feelings. They can become defensive or aggressive. They need validation that they are okay in spite of harsh feelings.

9. Let people know you are listening.

Use “uh-huhs,” “I see,” and other verbal and physical ways to let the other know you are listening. Be real. Really listen – don’t just pretend. Turn off the thinking and response mechanisms and focus on what the other person is saying, both verbally and physically.

10. Use “I” statements.

An “I” statement tells others how you feel, what you are thinking and what bothers you and what you want. It accepts responsibility for how you feel in response to whatever is happening.

11. Eliminate “you” statements.

“You” statements hold the other person responsible for how you feel. “You” statements blame, accuse, label, judge and evaluate. They are meant to intimidate and they create defensiveness.

12. Eliminate powerless talk.

If you have something to say, say it. But say it politely, specifically, and firmly. Powerless talk is tentative and hesitant. It hedges or qualifies what you say with statements such as “I guess” or “you know.”

Tag questions are attached to statements, such as, “It sure is cold in here, isn’t it?”  Powerless talk adds disclaimers to statements. For example, “Don’t get me wrong, but…”

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