We are never really taught how to communicate. Sure, we have to take English classes, writing classes, maybe public speaking at some point. But when is the last time “How to Talk to Someone 101” was offered? I don’t think I ever saw that course offered. Anywhere.
But communication breakdowns are a significant problem in post relationships. Here is an outline you can use to really help communicate well!
Two Parts For the Speaker
Identify Your Why
For the person that is talking, the two parts is first to understand what needs to be said. On the surface that can seem pretty simple, but you need to look at the big picture “WHY”:
- Why is this conversation important?
- Why even have it?
- What is the end goal that you’re even looking for in the conversation?
- What personal values are affected for you, that makes the conversation necessary to have
The answer to these questions can help you identify your “WHY” for the conversation. This isn’t just a nice thing to do. The WHY becomes your message. The entire rest of the conversation is built off of the “WHY”. So take your time. Make sure you know your WHY, why it is important, and how you want the WHY to be addressed.
Package Your Why
The second part is to identify how to package that why in a way the other person’s going to hear it, We may think it makes perfect sense to us. And we can say it in a way that is going to make sense for us. But we’re also talking to another person. What makes perfect sense to us may thoroughly confuse or upset someone else. Ask:
- How is that person going to hear or receive what I need to say?
- How can I convey that?
- How can I tell them that in a way that’s really going to resonate with them?
- How would they react? Is that a reaction I want?
If the answers to these questions don’t work for you, try changing how you say your WHY until you will probably have a productive conversation with the other person.
Two Parts for the Listener
Set Aside Your Emotional Reaction
The first step is to set aside your emotional reaction. This doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about the emotions the other person is bringing up in you. That can come a little bit later in the conversation, or maybe in a future conversation. Just like should happen if you are the person talking.
When someone’s talking with you, and they’re presenting their WHY. it’s very important to not immediately react or defend yourself or come up with a response. When we do, we often miss important details and can easily loose sight of their WHY. it also becomes very easy to jump to conclusions. Think back on previous arguments? Can you remember a time you got into an argument just to later realize you agree with them? You just emotionally jumped to conclusions and reacted?
Set that part aside and come back to it later. And that opens the door for the second part.
Listen For Their WHY
The person speaking has something important they are trying to tell you. Listen for their big-picture WHY. Reflective listening can help a lot with this. Reflective listening:
- Doesn’t interrupt
- Asks clarifying questions
- Says what they are hearing in their own words
- Is open to correction, feedback, clarification, etc.
- Helps the speaker feel heard and valued
Once the other person said what they need to, and confirmed you understand what they said, you can work together to find a solution that will meet what they need from the conversation.
So to very briefly recap, if you’re the person speaking, identify your why – the big picture values for the conversation – and package that in a way the other person’s likely to hear you. If you are the person listening, set aside your initial reaction, your emotional response, so that you can listen for the other person’s why their big picture value. Reflect that back to them so that they know that you did hear what they said. Now you can both problem solve to find a solution that works for you both.