Communication Is Not Rocket Science If You Start With These 5 Essential Steps
I understand their needs, I really do. We all crave to be able to make everything we want happen by communicating in a perfect way with each and every person we meet. But the first rule of the communication is that there are no guaranteed methods, therefore there are no guaranteed results.
Communication is not a magic wand.
Moreover, most of our everyday communication does not need any “advanced” techniques to use. In fact, a significant amount of the difficult conversations we bump into is an escalation of an everyday situation where we should have used “basic” communication skills to prevent the discussion getting out of hand.
So I suggest starting with these 5 basic steps first. Practice them every day and learn from your experience. Get proficient in them. You will be surprised how spectacularly the effectiveness of your everyday communication will rise.
Step #1 – Tidy up your thoughts
When we can’t express what’s on our mind in a way others can understand it, most of the times we ourselves don’t know either what is our message exactly.
Don’t talk so much. Don’t talk so fast. Don’t talk immediately when something comes up in your mind.
Think it through thoroughly: What is in my mind? What do I want to express? Tidy up your thoughts, find some structure in them, then follow with Step #2 which is closely connected to Step #1.
Step #2 – Consider your goal in the conversation
When you got to understand your own thoughts, it’s time to consider your goals.
If you don’t have any goals with your communication: don’t talk.
Ask yourself: What is the aim of expressing my thoughts? What do I want to achieve by telling them? How will I see that my communication will have been successful?
You don’t need to be a hostage negotiator to spend some time (10 seconds, maybe a minute) to consider your true aims in a conversation – preferably before you start it. Realizing for example, that you only want to complain or behind your anger you would like to ask for help, is essential to a conversation that makes sense and leads somewhere.
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Step #3 – Switch perspective
The most important rule in communication is that you do not communicate to express something. You communicate to get the other person understand something.
Nobody cares what you’ve said. The only thing that matters is what the other person has understood.
For that to achieve, you have to switch perspective, and observe the situation from the eyes of the other. How can I express my thoughts in a way that he/she understands?
So don’t ever use the excuse: “But I told him that!”. Nobody cares. Did he understand?
In order to make sure the other understands you, you need to think, or at least try to think with his/her mind. The most important thing to consider is what s/he may know or not know about the topic. Another crucial information may be the intentions and desires of the other person in the conversation. Spending some time to imagine how could s/he feel about the situation can also be useful in difficult conversations.
Try discovering these by asking questions and listening to the answers carefully. The former is useless without the latter, so don’t forget to use them both.
Most misunderstandings and communicational disasters happen because we assume that the other person knows something that, actually, s/he doesn’t. Make yourself aware of these assumptions of yours, and test them by asking relevant questions.
Step #4 – Make sure s/he understands
It’s not enough to try to change perspective. You need to make sure that others understand you. The easiest way is to keep using two-way communication.
What does that mean?
That means YOU are responsible for making sure both of you are on the same page.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. You only need to do 2 things:
A) Ask for feedback. “Do you follow?” “Is this clear?” “Everything’s clear so far?” – or in more complex conversations even: “Before I go on, can you tell me what did you understand so far, just to be sure I explained everything right?”
B) Pay attention to the other. Don’t preach. Don’t make a speech. Talk and watch at the same time. It’s not rocket science. Just pay attention to what the other person does.
Does he seem following you? Does he seem confused maybe? Or does he seem distracted, losing focus? Maybe he has a question in his head he doesn’t dare to ask. Or he has something else in his mind. If you detect this, go to step A) and ask for feedback.
It does not make sense to continue talking when the other person is not paying attention.
Remember: your goal is not to express your thoughts but to make the other person understand them. Do not run. Walk with him/her hand-in-hand (figuratively, of course), if you want to achieve any results in a conversation.
Step #5 – End with an agreement
So many conversations end with any signs of an agreement – that means any signs of a result. These are totally unnecessary conversations.
We talked just to hear our own voice but nothing changed due to the conversation.
End with and agreement. “So what do we do now?” “Then would you please…?” “Ok, so I’m going to call Jenny, and you are going to call Tim.” “Then I get back to you this afternoon.” “I see, you want me to…”
Again, it’s not rocket science. Just end the conversation with summarizing the results. Attempting this enables you to realize if there aren’t any results. That means you need to continue the conversation now or at a later time. That’s also a result, but only if you become aware of it.
If you think you are good to go to the next level, read about why empathy is important but so insanely hard at the same time, and also about how you can still be empathetic in everyday difficult conversations.
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