FEATURE – 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.
Starting 2014 with self-improvement in mind, the following is a list of five suggestions compiled from friends, colleagues and personal experience, as well as Forbes, Inc., that will help your interactions with others be rewarding and productive.
Tip No. 1 – Listen
It’s ironic, but one of the best ways to effectively communicate is by saying 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 a 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, thereby giving what they say importance and value.
Tip No. 2 – Clarify
My friend 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 doctors’ orders, so there is no chance of a patient getting the wrong information.
Thankfully, not all details of clear communication are potentially this dire, but we can avoid simple misunderstandings and frustrations simply by clarifying the information we’ve been given. Use phrases such as, “I hear you saying…” and repeat what was said. This gives validation to the speaker, as well as allowing clarity and accuracy from the conversation.
Tip No. 3 – Find your own voice
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. Be real. Refrain from disguising who you are, and others will recognize and honor you for it.
Tip No. 4 – Be open, honest and straightforward
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. Often, 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.
Tip No. 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. We can’t always follow through, but as a general rule, it’s better to say nothing or delay your communication until you’re certain your actions will ring true.
Expand this list according to your circumstances, experiences and distinct personality traits, as you assess your relationships and evaluate how you can improve communication with those around you. Remember how pleasing it is to be heard, complimented and understood; reflect that back to others and watch your interactions and relationships thrive!
Written by Brigit Atkin for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Atkin is a certified practitioner of the SimplyHealed method, which blends the art of healing with cutting-edge research and clears negative emotions on a mental, emotional and physical level in an easy, non-invasive way. It can release stress of any kind, whether it be years of abuse or daily things that tend to overwhelm our emotional circuitry. She was trained by Carolyn Cooper and works within the St. George community.
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