HOW TO BETTER COMMUNICATE FOR STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS
How we interact and feel in our personal and professional relationships is an essential predictor of our fulfilment and well being. Find the courage to change the things you can control in your relationships. You can be the leader and a catalyst of positive change.
How we interact and feel in our personal and professional relationships is an essential predictor of our fulfilment and well being. We are social animals and we cannot go through life alone.
Just like life, relationships are a mixture of joy and fulfillment together with disagreements, miscommunication, and different perspectives. They can be the source of our joy and also of our frustration.
Can one person be the catalyst to improve and change a relationship? Are there things in your control that you could do to communicate better and create stronger relationships?
As a coach who is fascinated by human interactions and who has helped countless clients make changes in their private and professional relationships, I say with certainty, YES! We can be the leaders and catalysts of positive change. If one person changes, the other will follow. There are things we can do to create positive and strong connections in our lives (having said that I also believe that in some relationships where abuse or harassment exist there is a clear need to leave that relationship).
Here are five of my favourite tools to transform how you communicate.
1. Know yourself.
Change has to start within you. Take the time to clarify your values, your strengths, and your needs. Understand what you bring to a specific connection, what you need from that relationship and what your triggers and boundaries are. Don’t assume the other person knows what you are thinking and feeling because most of the time they don’t. I often hear people say “they should know because we have been working together for many years” or “they know what I mean so I don’t need to clarify it”. One of the biggest enemies of communication is assuming the other person understands what we need, feel, and mean when in reality they do not. The same goes for us not understanding others.
2. In every situation there is more than one perspective.
Our perspective is a mixture of an objective and a subjective component. We hear something and, by the time it is stored in our minds, we have added many layers of our feelings, past experiences, interpretations, and assumptions to it, creating our own perspective. We make up conclusions – you and I and everyone else – it’s how our minds work. In the many mediations and facilitated conversations I have had with people in conflict, it never ceases to amaze me how I can speak to one side and clearly understand their perspective, then speak to the other side and clearly understand their perspective, but cannot understand how they could be talking about the same situation! Imagine a 6 on a piece of paper between you and another person. You could be arguing for eternity that you see a 6 while they see a 9.
- Be curious about what the other person’s perspective might be. What would happen if you showed interest in their perspective and acknowledged (without having to agree) that they see it differently?
- Challenge yourself to find the 2% truth in what the other person is saying. What is the 2% that you could learn from the other person? This type of question permits us to be curious about the other side while acknowledging that we might disagree with a large percentage of their perspective.
3. Listen authentically and with curiosity.
I know you have all heard about the importance of listening in relationships. You are probably thinking that you are a good listener. I would like to share that, in reality, most of us are only mediocre listeners. Listening is hard work and takes constant practice.
- Listen to understand. We spend a lot of our listening time thinking about how we will reply. Listen just to understand. Listen with curiosity. You will be amazed at what you might learn.
- Say less. Ask more. It sounds easy but it’s hard to do. I sometimes imagine myself zipping my mouth to force myself to ask and listen. Ask and wait for the response. Say less, explain less, listen more. Listen to understand rather than to reply.
4. Show appreciation and gratitude.
As humans we have a negative bias, meaning we remember the bad more than the good. Not because we are bad people but because that is how our minds work. We are quick to let other people know when they have done something wrong but we are less generous in showing our appreciation for the things they do right. Show your appreciation. Be specific. We all need it!
5. Channels of communication.
Are you having endless discussions over email? Texting things that are very important to you? Answering when triggered? The channel of communication (text, email, phone, Zoom, or in-person) that you use for different conversations matters. If it’s important to you, you should call the person to be sure they understand what you wanted to say. If you are communicating clear and actionable items, send an email that people can read carefully. Not all channels work for all types of conversations. Text and email can easily be misinterpreted! Be specific and ask what the other person understood to make sure that you have explained yourself clearly.
Many things are in our personal control AND others are not.
- You control your behaviours and how you communicate AND you don’t control how the other person will behave.
- You control how you react to situations and triggers. You don’t control how you feel.
- You control your daily choices even though they might not be what you wished for.
Remember Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Find the courage to change the things you can control in your relationships. Ask yourself constantly how you can communicate differently to create the impact you desire. Small changes can make a huge difference.