Practical Communication Tips to Build Healthy Relationships
We are talking about Practical Communication Tips to Build Healthy Relationships today. It's a passion of mine because communication is arguably the most important skill or competency we need to have in work and in life. Communication is how we convey information and ultimately how we connect with others. It's through our words and our body language that we can express a wide range of emotions from love to heartbreak and from triumph to disappointment. Communication is vital to our success, our goal achievement, our ability to lead teams and organize our lives. Poor communication leads to conflict, misunderstandings, broken dreams, and a lack of trust just to name a few.
As we evolve as a society so do our communication hurdles. The expectations for our communication today are greater than ever. Like everything else we are expected to be better, smarter, and faster. The number of people we interact with has multiplied and so has the medium (verbal, email, text, social media, etc.). The amount of time we spend communicating with others has increased as has our stress around communicating. What once was manageable seems unmanageable.
Communication and Our Families
And what about within our families? How has this communication changed? My Grandfather's point of view on family communication was children were to be seen and not heard. My parents allowed us to be heard but let's face it, things were less noisy back then.
Communication with our children is key to building connection, trust, empathy, and teaching them to be responsible citizens. They are bombarded with information from all the wrong places and we, as parents, need to ensure OUR message and essentially our values are clear. Our CONNECTION must be strong enough to crowd out the other messages.
In my world, communication is key to employee retention. Apply this to your family and communication is key to developing roots for your children. I consider poor communication a major dysfunction of teams as well as families.
We make a lot of assumptions about our communication. There are people who assume communication means "I talk, you listen." Some even interpret it as "I think it therefore I have communicated it." George Bernard Shaw would tell you “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” However, I believe the greatest assumption is to think everyone processes information the same way. We don't. We never will.
Practical Communication Tips to Build Healthy Relationships
My work within organizations focuses on ensuring clear messages get through to employees and management. Everyday I witness some fantastical mistakes. And let's face it, I have made some mistakes of my own! As a matter of fact, when it comes to my own personal development, I hold communication in my Area of Opportunity pile permanently. I feel I can always improve given the seemingly insurmountable variables involved.
Today I am going to share some of the pitfalls I see in my work life and personal life. I am also going to give you 6 actions to enhance your daily communication skills.
Avoid These Communication Pitfalls
- Using jargon or complex words to communicate a message. I like to call this Jargon Regurgita.
- Not thinking through the message and it's delivery.
- Not addressing wins, loses, misunderstandings, and frustrations in real time.
- Using the wrong tone of voice. I read somewhere that 10% of misunderstandings are due to a difference of opinion and 90% are due to the wrong tone of voice.
- Not paying attention to non-verbal cues.
- Multi-tasking while trying to communicate. This is a new phenomena cropping up from the advent of the smartphone. I will admit to being guilty of this myself.
6 Actions to Enhance Your Communication
Think about the connection you want to form with others. Who do you want to be to your children, your spouse, your friends, your boss, your parents, etc? How do you want to be perceived? This effects not only WHAT you say but HOW you say it. What is the purpose of this communication? What do you want the outcome to be? How do you want the receiver of the message to feel?
Foster two way dialog - two way communication is like ping pong but instead of hitting a ball back and forth you are sending words. Ask open-ended questions. Listen attentively. Keep an open mind about what is being said. Respond with non-judgment to opposing view points.
Speak simply - use everyday words to get your point across. Trying to prove you are a word nerd who reads the dictionary at night would be DELETERIOUS to your message.
Be Consistent - As an undergraduate I was in the psychology honors program which meant in order to graduate I needed to take on a research project, write a thesis, and present it in poster form at a symposium. I was at a research university and all the professors were brilliant and gifted lecturers. I received some of the best communication advice from the head professor of the program. She wanted us to practice our 50 cent words all the time. Everyday. No matter who we were speaking with. No more using slang with our friends. This way, when our nerves got the best of us during our oral presentations we would be comfortable using more intelligent words instead of falling back into slang. The consistency was key.
However, consistency goes beyond just making sure we practice how we speak. It's about setting specific times each week to discuss important details. For example, our family meetings are on Sunday at dinner. You can also use templates to help with communicating consistently. For example, my Weekly Rundown. The Weekly Rundown is the key to organizing our week and my main communication tool. I talk about it more in Getting Organized for the Week Ahead.
Mix it Up
Think about how the message is best delivered - verbal, written, checklist, text message, etc. Different things work for different people. The A Team's attention span for verbal communication is SECONDS. I just can't talk that fast! However, they rock a checklist. They get the quickest verbal communication followed up by a checklist. And then we drive the point home with REPETITION (discussed next).
If you have a hard time communicating your feelings, write a letter to yourself or to the person involved. The letter removes any negative body language, allowing you to soften the message and limit misunderstanding. Writing it out allows you time to organize your thoughts better. When the other party reads the letter, they have time to process the information. This allows them to be less defensive. Win-win.
Repetition has always been a cornerstone of effective communication especially with children. As we become a more distracted society, it becomes even more important. Think of your child's (and spouse's) mind like a twitter feed! It moves fast. It's easy for information to get skipped over or lost.
Back to the example of my Weekly Rundown - after I communicate it on Sunday do I forget about it the rest of the week? No. I use it as my daily communication tool. What is on our schedule that day, who needs to be where, who is getting the kids off the bus, what they are eating for lunch, what are we having for dinner, and etc. Each day. Every day. Same goes for our family vision and goals. They are repeated frequently to ensure clear messaging.
Click here to get a printable version of the chart below. Hang it on the refrigerator or at your workstation for a daily reminder.
Here is a fun quiz from Psychology Today called the Interpersonal Communications Skills Test. This test takes less than 10 minutes and gives you a 3-4 sentence result summary. There is a fee for a more detailed report. I found the questions to be enlightening in themselves and worth the few minutes.
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