“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
– Tony Robbins
What is communication? You’d be surprised how often this definition varies from person to person. It has been said that communication starts with listening. In my experience it starts much sooner than that. Communication begins between your ears, with your beliefs about communication. If you and your partner have different beliefs about what it means to communicate, then that is where misunderstands begin. Here are seven tips to get you started on the way to even better communication.
1. What is communication?
Answer this question for yourself first, and don’t do it quickly think about it long and hard. Figure out how you know you’re being listened to, or how you decided others are supposed to let you know they’re listening to you. Once you figure this out for yourself then you can explore the answers with your partner.
The better aligned your definitions of communication are the quicker you begin speaking the same language.
2. What are my responsibilities to my partner when communicating? What are their responsibilities to me?
Are yelling, interrupting, and needing to always be right, big parts of your communication style or approach to working with others? Do I expect my partner to read my mind on a consistent basis in order to let me off the hook from having to ask for what it is I truly want? Unless you want people to feel an experience of dread every time you approach them it’s critical that you examine what the experience of communicating with you actually is.
The person who initiates the communication sets the tone for the quality of that communication.
3. How do you know if it’s working?
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” How do you know the meaning of your words is being conveyed?
As frustrating as it may be people are often better at knowing what they mean than they are at being able to translate that into language. We need to extend each other the courtesy of a do over when it comes to the words that leave our mouths. Not a one of us is capable of choosing our words perfectly each and every time.
4. How do I correct it if it isn’t working?
Do I scold my partner impatiently for not listening? Or do we have ways of respectfully letting each other know when something isn’t working so we can correct it?
Asking your partner what action they are going to take based on the contents of your conversation is one of the best ways of finding out whether the intended message has in fact been received and understood.
5. How do I compel my partner to inform me of breakdowns in communication?
Is it safe to ask me for clarification, to repeat myself? Will doing so result in a tongue lashing?
When people can give you feedback and leave with the feeling of appreciation instead of flagellation is when they will become more comfortable letting you know how communication with them can be improved.
6. How do I keep the lines of communication open?
The most successful relationships lack the rule that you must tell your partner what s/he wants to hear. The best relationships allow for open and honest communication at all times. Easier said than done, but critical to accomplish.
7. How do I get ongoing feedback about the state of our relationship?
How are you doing as a partner? How is your partner doing as your partner? How do you get this question answered on a regular basis so that you know what to keep doing and what to do differently?
Develop the habit of having a frequent conversation with your partner that begins with these two questions, What’s going right with us? What can go even better?
It’s far easier to give a car a tune up than to rebuild the engine, so start always with what’s working instead of what’s broken.
Thanks for being you.
Brian R. King LCSW is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.