Communication issues can hold you back in any area of your life: your relationships, your career, even your sense of fulfillment. Fortunately, the opposite is also true. Becoming a better communicator will make you better at everything.
At the Journey Principles Institute, we define communication simply as connecting to the world and others around us. It goes beyond what we say and extends to how we carry ourselves, how we observe, even how we think. Below are the communication tips that will transform your interactions with people from miserable to blissful.
Communication Tips That Will Transform Your Leadership
1. Lean in
Leaning in is spending the time and energy to understand another person’s perspective before you make any judgments of your own. This last part is crucial, because the assumption that we already have the answers will make us far more likely not to listen. The key to leaning in is remembering that you really don’t have all the answers and that the person speaking knows something you don’t.
Most people are preoccupied with what they want to say. As such, they live in a perpetual state of hurry. They can’t relax enough to actually listen to what the person across from them is saying. If they would, they would probably find that many of their assumptions about that person and the situation they’re in are either simplistic or downright wrong.
“But what if I forget what I was going to say while I’m listening?” you may be asking. This is a great question. One thing I personally do is take notes on my phone while I’m listening to someone. If I think of an important point, I jot down a key phrase that will help me remember it later. Once I’m done leaning in, I can look back through my notes and bring it up if it still seems relevant.
It’s better to assume that everyone has something to teach you, so never forget to lean in. This is one of the most foundational communication tips.
2. Listen Often
Many of us need to reframe our definition of successful communication, because many of us think that being a great communicator is about being articulate and engaging when you talk. In reality, the foundation of excellent communication is listening.
We need to be committed to understanding before we can be great listeners, but we also need to make listening our default before we can be great communicators. The longer we listen, the more we will see and understand. The more we see and understand, the easier it becomes for us to identify the true root of a problem and know the right solution. Plus when you listen, other people want to listen to you.
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”-Proverbs 17:28
3. Communicate Clearly, Whatever it Takes
Impatience and pride are the true enemies of clarity. We naturally want other people to understand what we’re thinking, but many of us carry an unrealistic expectation that they should. In reality, you carry a myriad of expectations that are unique to you due to your upbringing, experience, and innate personality. Furthermore, language is more subjective than we think it is. We often say things that seem impossible to us to be misinterpreted that in reality have dramatically different meanings to others.
For instance, If I tell my wife that I don’t feel loved by her, I need to give specific examples of things she could do that would make me feel loved. In her mind, she may be thinking that she’s already showing me tons of love by taking out the trash and cleaning up the house, because those are things I could do to show her that I care. Meanwhile, I might mean that I want her to initiate more hugs and handholding, because that’s more important to me.
When you don’t clearly express to someone what you expect from them in a relationship, you set them up to fail. This is why it’s unkind to be unclear. It’s simply not right to expect other people to read your mind and extract all of the implied details from your broad statements. So invest whatever time and energy into making sure that what you’re trying to say is what the other person is hearing. Here are some here added communication tips to help you do this well:
- Ask “What do you mean by that?”
- Repeat back to someone else what you just heard them say, in your own words.
- If you’re making a request of someone, ask them to tell you what they heard.
- Rephrase what you say when there is confusion. Add new details.
- Ask yourself routinely: “What can I do to be more clear in my communication?”
4. Show Honor
Every communication with someone is an opportunity to show honor. Honor is treating someone with the same level of respect that you would like to be treated with. For instance, if someone brings a problem to your attention, thank them. For many people this takes courage and care, particularly if you happen to be their boss, spouse, or anyone in their life with power.
Another one of my favorite communication tips is to simply give encouragement, because most people rarely receive this. It’s also always good if it’s gratitude over something specific that a person did recently. Praise for behaviors is always very uplifting and motivating, particularly if it’s from your boss. Remember, everybody is brag-worthy, so if you struggle with thinking of more than a few things that you like about someone, you should probably get to know them better.
5. Seek Legacy
Keeping the end in mind is critical to success in anything. As a practice you should ask yourself in each relationship “What’s the ultimate, long-term outcome that I want to achieve with this person?” Think about collaboratively, and remember it always. Having perspective will help keep you curious, patient, honest, and intentional.
6. Bring Value
Your communication will really stand out when you’re more concerned about serving the other person than you are with being heard. Never underestimate how valuable it is to listen to someone and treat them with respect and honor. Every conversation you have can be the best part of someone else’s day, simply because you leaned in and sought long-term gain for your relationship. In the end, the more you forget about yourself in communication, the more effective you will be.
7. Be Honest
Out of all the communication tips you will ever receive, this one may be the most important. Avoiding conflict breeds resentment. You’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors when you’re concerned or bothered and you don’t speak your mind.
The right time, place, and approach are important, but these cannot be excuses to bottle things up. Storing up your offense or concerns is more likely to make you passive-aggressive than anything, which is never helpful. Passive-aggression creates more conflict in the relationship than if you’d said what you were thinking as politely as possible.
The key to being honest politely is to stop assuming the other person as the problem. Instead, assume that the real problem is a simple misunderstanding. When we realize that most interpersonal conflict comes from misaligned expectations, we can deal with conflict more readily. We can also treat one another with more compassion because we understand how easy it is to not be on the same page.
If you’re afraid that you might damage a relationship by being honest, remember that a healthy relationship will survive and be better for it. If somehow the relationship doesn’t survive or get better, then maybe it’s a toxic relationship that you shouldn’t be in.
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