Communication is a crucial aspect in all relationships. In order to communicate, a speaker must convey her/his message in such a way that it is not only received by the listener, but in actual fact heard and where necessary acted upon.
Do consider these five things if you are striving to communicate more effectively.
1. Recognise the patterns
As with many things in life, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of doing things. The same applies to communication. Subconsciously, we settle into a certain way of communicating. We have a certain stance, a posture and a tone when we speak and when we listen. It is also true that we never arrive at a conversation like a clean slate. We enter a conversation with an expectation, a history and filters in our ears. When we engage in a difficult conversation, we may for example be defensive without realising that we are coming across in this way. Why is this so? Can I see that this is a possible hindrance in satisfactory communication? By identifying the patterns (like a tendency to be defensive), we are able to address them and clear the way to more effective communication.
2. Cut out the middle man
When we’re trying to have a conversation that can potentially turn out volatile, we sometimes think that one way of achieving our goal is to involve a third party. We make our feelings known, give our version of events or express our opinion, not directly to the person(s) involved, but indirectly. While the intention may not be malign, the result of this approach is very seldom wholesome. Invariably, involving a third party complicates things and clouds the matter at hand. The best way to address an issue is to engage with the other person directly and to not involve a messenger.
3. Repeat what you hear
When we are listening, our unconscious filters may prevent us from hearing what the other party is trying to convey. One way of optimising communication is to repeat what we have heard. This prevents an impulsive response and helps the speaker to be sure that what he/she is saying is being registered by the listener. By repeating what we hear, we pave the way for streamlined communication. It also gives us time to formulate our own thoughts and has the potential to defuse volatile situations.
4. Face the fear
We are often hesitant to address a difficult matter. It may be because we fear the response of the hearer. But if it’s worth worrying about, is it not also worth raising? Think about it this way: what’s the worst that could happen? If we are able to speak calmly and express our feelings in a non-accusatory way, chances are that we will achieve our goal. Another reason why some people are scared to express themselves is that they are not sure that they will be able to do this well enough. Do not be afraid. You don’t need to talk perfectly. Nobody is giving you marks for your choice of words. Your best is good enough.
5. Ask an interpreter
In some instances, we may feel the need to involve a facilitator in our conversation. This person will adopt a neutral stance, and his/her intention will be to clear the way for unpolluted communication. A skilful facilitator is someone who will help two parties to identify issues and help them to gain insight in a problem. We typically involve an interpreter when we have a strong desire to restore a relationship and hope for this outcome. With willingness and a commitment to resolution, it may prove very helpful to make use of a facilitator.