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10 Tips for Improving Communication

Relationships are incredibly challenging for human beings, probably because we are remarkably poor as a species at communicating! We tend to think that if we spit out words, then meaning will be conveyed. Sometimes we even think that words aren’t necessary. But good communication takes both keen awareness and care. Relationships flourish as the quality of conversations improves. Here are some communication tips that we find helpful.

  1. Be a good listener – When someone is talking to us, they deserve our full attention. They deserve at least a short space of uninterrupted time to speak what’s on their mind. And we can’t listen properly if we’re rehearsing what we’re going to say while they’re still speaking.
     
  2. Speak in “I” statements – I know what I’m experiencing but I can never know with certainty what’s happening for anyone else. If we always limit our statements to our own reality, we avoid speaking incorrectly for and about others.
     
  3. Choose words with care – How often have you thought one word and said another? It happens all the time when we’re not really paying attention. And those kinds of inadvertent mistakes wreak havoc on clear communication! It helps to slow down and be conscious of what we’re saying.
     
  4. Ask, don’t assume – As noted above, we can never know what another person thinks and feels, so we should never assume that we know what’s going on for another. We can ask them to tell us. For example, rather than saying, “You must feel terrible about this!” simply ask, “How are you feeling?”
     
  5. Ask open-ended questions – Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no” response. Asking open-ended questions helps us avoid assumptions and misinterpretations because we’re asking the other to provide details that strengthen our understanding. For example, substitute a question like, “Do you like being a parent?” with “What do you find most challenging and rewarding about being a parent?”
     
  6. Avoid blaming – Anytime we blame someone, we block open communication. Rather than criticize someone else’s behaviour, we can look inside and take responsibility for ourselves. This is the time to use the “I” statements described above.
     
  7. Take time outs – Don’t try to converse when emotions are high. Whenever possible, postpone any discussion to a time when everyone is more calm and stable.
     
  8. Become aware of habitual patterns – When we’re in an ongoing relationship, we adopt habitual patterns that unconsciously govern the way we interact. It can be helpful to reflect on how we repeatedly react in different situations. Awareness of our patterns brings the freedom to choose to act differently.
     
  9. Understand your partner’s needs and wants – It seems obvious but have we ever asked our partner what s/he needs and wants from us? If one partner is upset, does s/he want space? To be held? To be heard? To receive advice? Knowing the answer to this fundamental question helps us offer the best kind of support when it’s most needed. And be patient if your partner doesn’t initially have an answer – we don’t always know what we most need and want. If you don’t get an answer at first, persevere!
     
  10. Value diversity – Communication is easily blocked when people move into judgment that basically says, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” When we can open to different points of view, when we respect the opinions of others even when they differ from our own, we pave the way for true communication.

Interested in more guidance around effective communication? We highly recommend Marshall B. Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Compassion.
  

John and Patrice Robson
Higher Awareness  (http://www.higherawareness.com)
Know yourself and Grow yourself with Higher Awareness.

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