In this era of electronic communication, mindful communication is becoming a lost art. There are two primary reasons for this: first, without face-to-face contact, it becomes easier to forget that there is a second party to the communication; and further, it becomes too easy to present our own position without listening for input or response from that second party.
The Major Communication Mistake:
Because all of this feels so good – it makes us feel “efficient,” which gives the illusion of successfully transmitting our message – we carry that style over to our in-person communications. That’s a mistake.
Whether you’re speaking with a manager, a subordinate, a group, or your own family members, here are six points that may improve your communication skills:
Speaking More Mindfully:
- Concisely articulate the issue. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Set out the premise of your conversation/speech/request without judgment or emotion. That means saying “I’d like to discuss with you the office policy regarding personal items,” rather than “Your co-workers hate it when you steal their lunches out of the fridge.”
- Understand your audience. Recognize that a speech that you’re giving to a group of 100 people immediately after lunch is not going to work if you present it in the same style that you did for a group of 20 first thing that morning. Speaking to your teenager as he or she is running out the door may not be fully received by that distracted listener.
- Be willing to deliver the difficult message. Whether you’re imposing discipline, apologizing for a mistake, or offering sympathy for a misfortune, don’t try to fix things. Just acknowledge the issues in a non-judgmental way – and remember that an unencumbered apology (“I’m sorry that I did that to you”) is better than back-handed blame (“I’m sorry that you made me have to do that”).
Listening More Mindfully:
- Be aware of the other speaker’s motivation. If you can determine why the other party holds the opinion that he or she is expressing, you can recognize and respond more effectively. You may have to ask a question or two to get to that place – but again, remember to be non-judgmental. “What makes you think so?” or “What can I do to help?” are better questions than “Why would you say something so ridiculous?”
- Use silence as a tool. Whether you’re speaking to one person or a group of 100, sometimes just stopping for a second or two to listen for any reaction or question is much more effective than plowing along with your own message.
- Be prepared to listen without arguing. Allowing the other party to speak without interruption is not only courteous, it’s productive. It allows that person to feel respected, and may cause them to realize that there’s some overlap between their position and yours.
Once we step aside from our computer or our phone, and whether we’re talking to a single person or a group, we all believe that we know how to communicate. But our messages don’t always get across in the way that we hope or think they do. These six things allow us to communicate in a more intentional and mindful way, building our own credibility and confidence with those with whom we’re sharing a message. Try them out – you may start to enjoy talking directly to people as much as you enjoy tweeting!