When I was kid we had weekly ‘family meetings’ – a product of a psychologist father and having a slew of foster kids. While I hated those meetings back then, they gave me communication skills that I carried into adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, communication is always hard. But the more you practice the easier it gets. Here are a few ways to make it less painful:
Value the relationship
If you value your relationship with someone, you want to continue to like and respect them. Think about communicating as something that does just that; it gives you an opportunity to air grievances respectfully and better understand each other.
Talk about things before you’re mad
Bring things up before they’re a huge deal: Hey Bob, can you keep me in the loop on schedule changes in the future? It really helps me juggle my other projects better. Thanks! <smile>
By the eighth schedule change you haven’t been told about you’re probably seething. Instead, catch it on the second time when you’ve noticed it’s annoying but you’re not pissed yet.
Use humor to lighten things up a bit
My mom is a pro at this – delivering a message with a smile and a wink, my dad calls it the hit-and-run. The key is she’s always good-natured about it, not saracastic or mean-spirited. Well, maybe a wee bit sarcastic, but never mean.
Present your point of view
The quintessential use ‘I feel’ statements advice. Help them understand how their actions make you feel, so that they can empathize. For example, when feeling micromanaged I’ve said: when you check in on me this frequently it makes me feel like you don’t trust me to do my job. Which, of course, was not her intent.
Make sure it’s a two-way street
Let people know you’re open to feedback, then make sure you’re actually open to feedback – listen to what they’re saying with an open mind, don’t get defensive, and ask clarifying questions. If people know you’re really listening and trying understand, they’ll trust you enough to come back again in the future.
There you have it, some of my best communication tools. Granted there are lots of others. What communication tools do you rely on most? Or what do you struggle with when trying to communicate?