Dr. Lynn Workman Nodland’s
Seven Steps To Effective Communication and Positive Relationships
- Use Active Listening. It is not surprising that one of the most important parts of having effective communication and positive relationships does not involve speech. It involves what is called “Active Listening”. Active listening is definitely not occurring when a person is watching TV or glancing at a newspaper or even looking out the window. Active listening occurs when a person is looking at the other person and has all his/her attention on the person who is communicating. Active listening also involves noticing not only what the person is saying but what the nonverbal are sharing. Is the person appearing agitated, calm, sad, happy? What are some things you notice when you are using active listening?
- Seek to Understand. Stephen Covey said, “First seek to understand , then to be understood”. This is perhaps one of the wisest sayings in regards to effective communication and relationships. If we only took the time to first listen and understand, then there would be less miscommunication and less conflict. What is the person really saying? Are they saying one thing but meaning another? One sentence that often is a good way to connect is to say, Help me understand”. This involves the next communication strategy so read on.
- Clarify is the next strategy. This is especially effective when you think something is confusing and you don’t understand. The line of “Help me understand” also works well here but here is another way to approach the situation to have effective communication. It can especially helpful to just repeat what the other person is saying. For example, you would say, “What I am hearing you say is……” and then repeat what they said according to your understanding. If they disagree with your interpretation, they can restate what was said. This way of going back and forth clarifying further each time is what will ultimately help the two of you to reach agreement on the meaning of the conversation.
- Use “I statements”. Using “I statements” has a way of reducing conflict. How this works is that when a person says “I feel” or “I think” then it is harder to fight against what they are saying. Often people use “You statements” and they will accuse the other person by saying “You are….”
Then the accused will counter back by refuting or defending themselves. This type of “Yo Yo” conflict will not get to the real problem to get it solved.
- Stay Solution-Focused. Identify the problem that needs to be solved and then work together to find solutions. This is a very effective way of working together that keeps communication from going down the blame-game road or from digging up the past. If one of the parties gets off track and starts blaming, it is easy for the other to follow but a way to avoid that trap is to redirect the conversation by saying something like, “What else should we do about…(the problem that needs to be solved)”.
- Always be respectful. No name calling or belittling. Avoid throwing emotional garbage that has nothing to do with the conversation. It will not help you to get closer to each other, it will only drive wedges. This is important in personal conversations and also in work settings. Sometimes it is easy for someone to think they are being “cute” by offering sarcastic remarks, which are also sometimes said in front of other people. This is not funny and will be long-remembered by the victim of the inappropriate remarks. Be professional at work and definitely respectful, caring and compassionate both at work and at home. Every human being wants to succeed, be appreciated and be treated with respect.
- Be Honest. Honesty will help develop trust in a relationship. It will help to bring you closer to each other and allow for as necessary. When people are honest they create a safe environment. Being honest can be difficult at times, like if your wife asks you if her thighs look big. At times, one must also be diplomatic. But even in the case of the thigh question, which many guys get asked, can be caring in his answer, the conflict can be avoided or at least minimized. At work, if someone is not performing up to their expected level, letting them know the expectations is honesty. Then this conversation can be followed by clarification as to how the person can grow in their abilities to be able to perform better.
There are many more tips for effective communication and positive relationships that I will share with you in the future. Effective Communication and positive relationships are favorite areas of mine because they affect every area of personal and professional life. I look forward to hearing from you about how you used the strategies listed here in your life. Visit my blog and share your ideas.
©Lynn Nodland 2013