Communication is key. There is a reason that is a very common phrase, it is TRUE! Yes, we all know its true; however, we somehow still fail to do it effectively, if we even do it at all. Lack of effective communication can be the breakdown to every relationship; Parent/Child, Employer/Employee, Spouses and Intimate Partners, Siblings, etc.
How do we improve communication? We need to identify the deficiencies and work on ways to fix them. Alrighty then, where do I even start? The deficiencies are so vast, so let’s start with a generic algorithm, which if applied properly, should drastically improve communication.
1. PAY ATTENTION
Communicating is not just getting your point across well, but more importantly, getting the others’ point. I can be confident in saying we don’t all always get everything all the time, virtually impossible. From the moment your child is born, pay attention to him/her so that you can be aware of his/her needs. Make sure you heard what the other was saying, instead of paying attention to what you want to say next. Read and understand the instructions BEFORE attempting to assemble furniture or complete and assignment at work.
2. ASK QUESTIONS
Lets put money on how often you actually were right about what you thought the other person meant! Popular vernacular is a heck of a thing. Since the population is literally a living thing, it changes constantly and so does the meaning of its words. This is certainly my most frustrating part of communication. I am a very literal person, and who else is these days? Rarg! This being the case, I have to make sure I understand what the other person is saying by asking. Hey did you say…did you mean…am I to understand that…? I cannot be more literal about this point, make sure you understand by asking questions.
I’ll be right back…nothing…ah, hello? Can you at least let me know you heard me? My son asks me all the time “Mommy, why are you not listening to me when I’m talking to you?” Well then. Apparently, I do it too. I don’t always let him know I heard him. The impression I give him, by not acknowledging him, is that I am not paying attention or I didn’t hear him. This is the same for adults. I know I feel the same way with him, my husband, the bank teller, etc. Just acknowledge that you heard and understand. A simple OK does it most the time.
The responsibility also lies in making sure that the other person DID hear you, by soliciting an acknowledgment…hey, did you hear me? So, don’t get mad that I have to ask if you heard me. People expect acknowledgment.
4. RESPOND ACCORDINGLY
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Address each point the other person was making, and don’t just ramble on in a different direction. This advise can be applied all the time, even if you are talking to a child, most certainly just get to the point. Stay on point, steer the course, etc. He can’t say ‘hey hun, the Dodger’s are coming to town’ and you say ‘dinner will be ready in 5 minutes’. You have to at least preface that with ‘that’s nice babe’, then move on. But you can’t just bypass a comment or question. This goes back to acknowledgment.
For more specific forms of communication like discussions or debates, it is very important to address the topic at hand and not veer off. This earns respect. It proves to the other party that you are paying attention and that the issue at hand matters. Don’t use that time to interject other topics that are of concern, but are not relevant to the current topic. It is frustrating as the issue will never reach resolve that way, or most definitely takes longer.
5. BE CONSISTENT
If you are consistent in your style and vocabulary when it comes to communication, it will make it easier for others to learn to communicate with you. If you follow these five steps consistently (this one included), I truly believe that you can improve your communication on every level in every relationship. This last step is key, though. As with most things in life, this improvement process takes time and practice. So be persistent and consistent.