Are you tired of having upsets with the people in your life? Do you want to learn the art of communication so that you can experience successful relationships with your family, friends, and the people you work with? To begin with, you may want to make the following agreement.
“I care about you, and I am committed to communicating with you in constructive ways. I realize that I am responsible for all my thoughts and feelings. I am willing to be present and to listen to you. My focus is on accepting both of our viewpoints, and creating win-win situations and solutions. It is such a joy to communicate with you, and to maintain the bridge between us so that we can be close. I like feeling close to you.”
Now that you are clear about your goal, here are some guidelines that can help you keep your communication agreement.
1. Take the time to communicate with yourself; tune into your own thoughts and feelings to be clearly aware of what you want to share with others.
2. Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings by beginning your sentences with “I.”
3. Ask for what you want instead of telling people what you do not want. For example, “I would like you to calmly tell me what you want,” is better than, “Don’t yell at me!”
4. Understand that communication is sharing opinions and feelings. Avoid debating which is trying to prove right or wrong.
5. Make a statement first so people know what you are thinking. Then ask them for their opinion. For example, “I would like to go to the movie. Would you like to go?”
6. Avoid mind reading. If you are unclear about any communication, ask for specifics. For example, “How do you mean that? What do you mean?”
7. Watch for non-verbal messages-gestures, posture, tone of voice, etc., to fully understand what the person is saying.
8. Rather than giving advice, point out the different choices you see, and allow the other person to make their own decisions.
9. Really listen to what they are trying to tell you. (Avoid thinking about what you want to say next.) Then let them know that you have heard them by repeating what they have said in your own words.
10. To let the other person know that you are listening, use eye contact, or say, “Uh huh,” or “I hear you.”
11. If a person is not communicating with you, be aware if you are doing one or more of the following: not listening, judging, talking too much, interrupting, not being interested in the other person’s communication, being impatient, criticizing, being sarcastic, overreacting, psychoanalyzing, labeling, or cursing.
12. In order to be heard, avoid starting your sentences with the following words because they often feel like attacks and provoke arguments.
“I know you. . .” (You only know about yourself.)
“I like you, but. . .” (The “but” discounts the first part of the sentence.)
“You feel. . .” (People do not like to be told how they are feeling.)
“Why are you feeling . . .?” (You are asking them to rationally justify their feelings. Emotions are real and valid even if they are irrational.)
“You always or never. . .” (These words are too absolute, and the listener will be focusing on the times they did or didn’t so that they can defend themselves.)
“You make me. . .” (No one can make you feel a certain way. You are totally responsible for how you perceive and react to things.)
“Don’t you think . . .?” (You are implying that they should think your way.)
“You should. . .” (These words are telling the other person that they are not okay if they do not do what you say-which often leads to rebellious behavior because they are not feeling that they have a choice.)
13. In order to be heard, begin your sentences with the following words:
“I imagine. . .” (Your imagination is not threatening to another.)
“I like you and. . .” (They are likely to be open to your comment.)
“I feel. . .” (People like to hear what you are feeling.)
“What (or How) are you feeling?” (These words ask for information and show that you care.)
“Sometimes or often. . .” (People can often handle non-absolutes.)
“I resent. . .” (Taking responsibility for your feelings helps the other person hear you.)
“What do you want?” (You are helping the other person tell you what they desire-shows that you care enough to ask.)
“I want (prefer, or would like). . .” (People like direct and clear messages.)
14. Be aware of your non-verbal messages and be congruent. That is, your body language and words need to be sending the same message.
For example, if you say, “What do you want?” with an annoyed tone of voice, you are sending the message that you really do not care about what they want.
15. If you are upset, do what you need to do in order to feel calm so that you can communicate constructively. For example, take a walk, nap, write down your feelings, or yell into a pillow.
16. Create win-win situations by brainstorming until both parties are satisfied with the solution. Then work out the specific details to carry out the mutually agreed upon decision.
These techniques can greatly enhance your relationships. Be forgiving and patient with yourself and others as you acquire the art of communication.