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10 Tools to Improve Communication

Communication skills are vitally important for creating and maintaining connection with the people in our lives. Whether we’re interacting with strangers, colleagues, our children or our intimate partner, there’s a huge payoff to learning the tools to become a master communicator. Here are some communication tools that we find helpful.

  1. Give feedback or make a request – It’s so easy to run into conflict with this one because we often slip into ‘you’ statements. If we say, “You (did/didn’t or should/shouldn’t) …” the other person often gets defensive. Instead, we can learn to stay focused and use “I” statements. Here’s the formula recommended by many communication experts: “When I (see or hear) you …, I (feel or think) … and because I need …, I request that you….”
  2. Book a time for important discussions – When an important matter needs to be discussed, commit to a specific time to talk about it. This avoids the risk of poor connection because one or both parties are unprepared or distracted.
  3. Give appreciation – Everyone appreciates being appreciated and it becomes even more meaningful when we can be precise in our praise. Here’s a basic formula that works: “When you (be specific) …, I feel … and this is important to me because… Thank you!”
  4. Create agreement – We tend to forget that each of us sees life quite differently. We assume that the other person shares our perception of things. If we want meaningful communication, we may need to start by building a solid foundation. And finding a mutual need or common interest helps to create a win/win solution. Here are some starting points:
        • “I observed …. Do you agree with these perceptions?”
        • “I feel or think … What do you feel or think?”
           (no agreement is necessary on this step)
        • “I want …. What do you want and what is important to you?”
  5. Promote sharing – Make communicating into a game! This is a great way to start discussions on interesting, intimate and sensitive topics. Each partner writes out 5, 10 or 20 topics or questions for discussion on small pieces of paper. All topics are placed together in a bag or container. At an agreed upon time, one person draws a piece of paper and talks on the topic for a full 2 minutes with no interruptions. The other person then gets 2 minutes to share their perspectives on the same topic, again with no interruptions. Following the individual sessions, the two can discuss the topic further if they so desire.
  6. Promote issue resolution – If a difficult issue has arisen between individuals, it can be helpful to follow the process described above, with the variation that a future time would be set to address that particular topic. This allows each person to think about the topic before the meeting. At the appointed time, one person would speak for 10 minutes with no interruptions. This gives plenty of time for some reflecting, repeating and summarizing what’s most important to them. If the issue is particularly sensitive, it’s helpful to have the second person paraphrase what they heard from the first, to ensure that the information was communicated accurately. Then the process is repeated with the other person expressing his/her point of view for 10 minutes with no interruptions. Again, the listener could paraphrase what was heard.
  7. Clarify level of interest or commitment – When we want something but we’re not sure about how our partner feels about it, we can ask for clear feedback: “On a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 is low and 10 high, how would you rate your desire or commitment for …?” We might follow this with, “What would it take to make it a 10?”
  8. Deepen conversations – If we seek fulfilling connections with people, we need to move beneath the superficial. To get more information or find out how someone is really feeling, use this phrase: “Tell me more about it.” When someone says, “I feel …, I like or dislike …, I think or believe …” etc., then ask, “Tell me more about it.”
  9. Say it in writing – If issues needing discussion are important and you doubt your ability to present your case face-to-face, consider writing out your thoughts and giving them to the other person on paper. Give them time to consider your position and then meet to discuss.
  10. Connect in silence – Sit across from each other with your knees almost touching. Set a timer for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 or 10 minutes. Just stare into the eyes of the other. Other times try sending love to each other (without speaking or moving).

John and Patrice Robson
Higher Awareness  (
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