A practitioner and coach of NLP, I regularly experience people reaching out to me to work through a problem. While these issues range anywhere from a relational vendetta to a self-discovery impasse, roughly 90 percent of these hang-ups are centered around ineffective communication.
Now, I in no way claim to be an expert in this department. In fact, the more I dissect what I know to be true about communication, the more I realize I’m aloof to most of it. However, amongst the sea of pain and heartache, some common themes arose from the language and perceptions being opted for. These patterns clearly weren’t doing anyone any favors in the arenas of connection and influence and moreover, created a vague feeling of — and I use this term loosely — helplessness.
This isn’t exactly a surprise, as sharing and receiving ideas isn’t exactly our strong suit. Social issues, divorces, and violence can all be traced back to some type of breakdown in communication. Much of the world succumbs to a baseline of ineffective dialogue and we need an effective solution.
After just about every meaningful relationship in my life bit the dust, I woke up to a few painstakingly common denominators that were consistently tarnishing the effect I was having on people.
Have a peek behind the curtain.
Here are four critical communication distinctions that will make an immediate impact with the people in your life:
1. Resist the urge to say “you.”
Because of our overwhelming desire to be right — and therefore protected — we love sharing where the other person failed to meet our expectations. It’s common practice to pepper the phrases “you did this” or “you said that” throughout our explanation, as we want to reinforce how the other person made us feel.
This gets us absolutely nowhere and transforms the pre-existing chain-link fence into castle walls. By renouncing the use of “you”, the person’s nerves are calmed as the spotlight has been taken off of them — dissipating the feeling of being put on trial. The entire experience is now under consideration and they can sense you’ll be a little more objective in your drawing of conclusions.
“Communication — the human connection — is the key to personal and career success.” — Paul J. Meyer
2. Use “what” instead of “why.”
Questions can be the most powerful gateway to understanding what’s happening in another person’s world. However, we often jump the gun when it comes to dealing with communication breakdowns.
“Why” possesses far too much depth as an inquiry, often careening someone off an emotional cliff. It pierces the conscious mind and it typically elicits a sharp comment or cutting remark in response, capping a lid on the potential for forward momentum in the conversation. Most people would prefer walking into the ocean, as opposed to being dropped into shark-infested waters.
“What” is much more of a surface-level inquisition. It treads lightly and doesn’t require the other person to dig as deep in their explanation. “Why” confronts the individual, while “what” confronts the situation.
3. Resist over-identifying with what’s being said.
Expecting someone else to base their every move around your feelings is a recipe for disaster. No one has a complete picture of reality but our continual sole reliance on our own subjective view robs us of being quality contributors to others — most notably, in our closest relationships.
It’s the difference between the spouse who yells and screams at their partner for coming home late versus the one that greets their partner with genuine concern and worry for their well-being. One is a focus on the short-term (the emotions that arose from the situation), while the other is a response to the long-term and what’s most important (the health of the individual).
Taking the “all things considered” approach will do you far more good than simply concerning yourself with your own feelings. After all, they aren’t always valid. Stop yourself from the knee-jerk reactions whenever curveballs get thrown your way and instead, take a look at the score, the inning, how many outs, and the men on base — then you can take a swing.
“Communication must be HOT. That’s Honest, Open, and Two-way.” — Dan Oswald
4. Understand that how you perceive the conversation is entirely one-dimensional.
Words, tone, and body language can play serious tricks on us sometimes. Consider that it’s impossible to know the truth within a conversation, as the “truth” is contingent upon whose point of view you’re basing it off of.
When communication reaches a stopping point, it’s usually a result of neither party being willing to waver on their indifferences. Attachment and pride get in the way in many areas of life and communication is no exception. To truly understand another person and appreciate where they’re coming from, you must give up your point of view.
It allows you to be a clear space for their ideas and input — free from judgment or cynicism. You can literally create freedom for another human being simply by opting to remain stoic and allow them to try on their own opinion, instead of having to force it down someone else’s combative throat.
This doesn’t mean you agree with them or validate what they’re saying. It’s simply a matter of making an impact — people will not move for someone they don’t feel heard by. Giving up your position not only allows room to understand another person, it creates freedom to roam the meadow of new ideas. It shows you that you’re okay despite temporarily being of no position or stance.
Our ego thinks we can’t survive without a strong opinion etched firmly within our psyche. It’s up to you to show yourself that you don’t have to be held hostage to that opinion — for you can let go of it at any moment in lieu of what really makes the difference for people.