For some reason, communication skills are not ones that we learn in school. Though every person, everywhere needs to communicate on a daily basis, somehow this has been missed as an important piece of curriculum.
Ten years ago, I joined a non-violent communication practice group that opened my eyes to a style of communication that had before that point been entirely missing from my life. I was more or less just bumbling through trying to be successful with as many people as I could. That was a turning point for me to bring intention into my relationships and my communications.
Since then, I have become a life coach and learned how to communicate effectively with people all over the world with their deepest truths and emotions.
I notice within my coaching practice that most of my clients get really stuck around knowing how to communicate safely and effectively with their partners, coworkers, family members and friends. From setting safe boundaries to not blaming others, it’s a skill we could all use some aid with.
These 3 tips can drastically improve the relationships with those around you and the one inside of you if you start implementing them.
1. Stop using "You" as the first word in any sentence.
It is so common to hear people in a heated moment say, “You didn’t finish the dishes,” or “You didn’t tell me about that appointment.” Just the energy of starting a sentence with "You" puts people on the defensive.
Why do we so often look outside of ourselves to place the blame?
When we start noticing where we are using the word "You" and change it to "I" magical things can happen.
For example, “I’m feeling frustrated because I thought you were going to finish the dishes.” Or “I’m really surprised about that appointment and it’s taking me a minute to figure out how to fit it into my schedule.”
The energy of the whole conversation changes and we take responsibility for our own experience.
Whenever you hear yourself starting with "You," pay attention and see if you can change the sentence around to starting with "I" instead.
2. Throw a question at it
In order to gain an understanding of where the person you are speaking to is actually coming from instead of jumping to any kind of conclusion or judgment, try asking a question in response.
Clarifying questions help us understand more about the situation at hand.
Everyone likes to feel heard and important. When you begin asking questions to gain more understanding the person you are speaking with has the chance to get center stage for a moment. And, you have the chance to gain more understanding.
A question I find myself asking often is “What do you mean by that?” “You’re saying that your burnt out, what does that actually mean to you?”
Try this one with yourself too. When you feel stuck and unsure of how to move forward, throw a question at yourself and sit down and right out the answer. You have more answers than you think you do.
Often when others are talking, we are in our own minds plotting out what we are going to say in response or completely thinking about something else. A lot of communications can get hung up just from this.
Here’s a tool to help you practice staying present with the person who is speaking:
Say back to them what they just said to you.
It’s so simple but usually takes us forcing ourselves to actually try it. If you can do this, it means that you were really, really listening to what was being said.
When your boss says to you, “I want you to secure two more clients by the end of the month in order to meet the goals we set out.” Before jumping to analyzing why he is such an ass or what you’ve done wrong, simply say back to him, “So you want me to secure two more clients before the end of the month in order to meet our goals?”
It takes a really strong muscle within us to practice this at first but soon after it becomes second nature. Instead of being in our own heads judging, dreaming and analyzing, we’re present to what is really happening right in front of us.
In fact, try this on yourself. Say back to yourself what you are thinking a couple of times throughout the day. When you start noticing what thoughts are really going on in your mind, you then have the power to change them if they are not serving you.
These are three tools that you can easily start practicing today to get you started on the path toward easier communication in your life. Since we weren’t taught this stuff in school, I hope these help!