We can all communicate. We talk all the time. With bosses or teachers, family, friends, etc. But communicating clearly and effectively is much more difficult. These 7 tips can help you communicate clearly.
1) Know Why You Want to Talk
Have you ever been talking with someone talking in circles. You know they have a point, but what exactly are they trying to say? Chances are, they aren’t focused on the “why” of the conversation.
Pause before you have a conversation with someone. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the conversation. What would the best outcome be? Be specific.
2) Know What You Want to Say
Jack didn’t do the dishes again and Jill is furious. She feels like Jack doesn’t listen, doesn’t care about her, and is too busy focused on his own life. Jill needs to talk to him. She feels neglected and not valued.
But the dishes aren’t what is important. Dishes are a symptom of a bigger problem. Jack isn’t giving Jill the emotional help or support she needs. That is what Jill needs to say.
When you need to have a conversation, stop and think “Why is this important to me? What values are impacted by this?”
3) Communicate Your What and Why Clearly
We talk to our bosses differently than our coworkers. And our friends differently than family. They relate to us in different ways and are each unique. So we change what we say accordingly.
Do the same thing for important conversations. Consider the person that will be listening to you. How can you take your “what” and package it in a way that will be clearly understood?
4) Communicate Gently
I can’t think of anyone who likes being verbally attacked. Chances are, you don’t either. Neither does your partner. Don’t try to attack your partner – especially when you are mad. Instead, clearly tell them what you need to say in a way they will be receptive to. A good pattern for this is “When”… “I feel”… “I need”. Using the dishes example from above:
“Jack, when the dishes aren’t done, I feel neglected and not valued. I feel like I am not important and that you don’t care. I need to know I am important. Seeing you do the dishes – especially after a long day reminds me you care about me.”
5) Communicate at a Good Time
Pick a good time for both people to talk. After a long day at work – or home with high-energy children – may not be the best time to talk about deep marital problems. Pick a time that works for both people and commit to talking then. This will help both people to focus on the conversation without distraction.
6) Don’t Focus on Small Points
Focusing on small points will derail the conversation. No one cares if dishes were done 3 times or 4 times last week. Focusing on such details can cause both people to become defensive. They also become the focus point and a distraction from the “why” of the conversation. Instead, let go of being right and focus on moving the conversation forward.
7) Stay Focused on the Resolution
You are talking to them for a reason (remember point 1?). It is really easy to be distracted or sidetracked. Remember your “why” for the conversation and the goal for the conversation. Try to keep the conversation moving towards those goals. Sure, you might not meet every goal of the conversation. But you will be closer, right? If not closer, you at least know where the other person stands on the topic. And that is improvement. Now you can start figuring out how to approach the next conversation.
What If This Doesn’t Work?
Conversations take two people. We can do everything right and the conversation still blows up. Having a trained, objective person can help move difficult conversations forward. When that is the case, couples counseling can be an effective way to have the difficult conversations.