The youngest infants are able to communicate their needs and wants – for food, for comfort, for warmth. And they do so quite effectively! Ironically, that as our ability to express ourselves increases, so too does the chance of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The purpose of communication is to relay our message to another person clearly and unambiguously. Babies are wonderful at this; when they scream and suck at their hand, we know just what they’re “talking” about. It’s the adults that have problems; the process of communication is often muddled, interrupted, or obscured, and this can lead to conflict. It can feel like one big session of that game we played as kids – Broken Telephone.
- Pay attention! Sometimes, we are so busy planning what we are going to say that we don’t listen to what the other person is saying. Not only do you miss important information, you clearly convey the message that the other person is not worth listening to. This inevitably causes even more conflict. When you are listening, listen with your whole body. Be active; shake your head, make eye contact, ask questions to clarify and explore meaning, take in what they are saying and test your assumptions about why they are saying it.
- Gather your thoughts. Rather than blurting out a response, give yourself time. Organize your thoughts so you can express yourself more clearly – and so you say what you really mean to say. It’s okay to take your time. Many questions require thought. Take the time to think – your conversation partner will appreciate it and it will facilitate clearer communication.
- Be concise. Here’s the hard truth: no one thinks you are as fascinating as you do. No one wants to hear you lecture, and no one wants to hear you talk because of your lovely voice. Try to make your replies concise, using clean, clear phrasing. Be direct; this not only makes you easy to talk to, it conveys the sense of honesty and knowledge.
When you can communicate effectively, you can get much more out of every interaction you have, whether work-related or social. It enriches your entire life and can reveal new information, new connections, and new opportunities. Powerful negotiators are good communicators.