Let's face it. Many of us are not the best communicators. We avoid talking through issues, and have a fear of picking up a phone -- to speak to someone, that is. Yet, we have no problem using our phones to do any number of things to distract us from dealing with an issue, face-to-face. We love to hide behind the sanctuary of our screens.
Of course, it's not just your phone that is the problem. We've lost the ability to communicate effectively, leading to mixed messages, miscommunication and eventually, conflict. In the workplace, poorly managed conflict and disagreement kill productivity and efficiency. At home, it can lead to ongoing resentment that lingers like an unrelenting fog.
The best way to begin a high-stakes conversation is to identify the root of the problem. Remember; you may be telling yourself a "story" that is completely inaccurate, affecting the resolution to your problem. If you approach the discussion with this in mind, you will be more open to listening to the other person's side of the argument, which sets the tone for resolution, from the start.
Easier said than done, right? But if you can become more aware of what you are doing to sabotage your communication, you have taken the first step toward more constructive solutions.
If you succumb to any of these habits, it may be time to rethink your communication style:
1. Look at your phone.
Watching someone scrolling through texts, email and social media notifications will irritate anyone you are in a conversation with. Remember the edict of spiritual guru Ram Dass? "Be. Here. Now." Simply put: stay off your phone and give the other person the respect of your full attention.
2. Use the words "always" and "never."
The words "always" and "never" are sweeping generalizations that are often erroneous. Statements such as, "You always do this..." or "You never do that..." will put others on the defense. Take personal responsibility for your part in any conversation. Own your feelings without accusation, and speak from a personal perspective. Try, "I feel this when ...". Taking ownership of your feelings will always be received more positively.
3. Raise your voice.
We all have a fight-or-flight response. When someone raises their voice or challenges our ideas, our "fight" reflex gets activated. Besides, nothing turns people off more quickly than shouting and bullying. So keep your cool.
4. Interrupt the other person.
Can't wait to make your point? All the other person can hear is interjecting. The key is to listen in order to understand. Take a pause before speaking. If you are not taking in the other side of the argument, how can you possibly resolve it?
5. Be overbearing.
Trying to control the outcome of a conversation never works, and will lead to more alienation. Letting go of control can, at times, be your secret weapon. Be open to the other person's feelings and check your ego at the door.
6. Project a negative attitude.
A closed-minded attitude exhibited in your tone, facial expressions and body language will not serve you in overcoming a dispute. When you remain open and willing to receive the other person's viewpoint, the tide will shift to a more supportive dialogue and an accommodating outcome.
7. Say nothing at all.
The "silent treatment" or lack of interaction will lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Healthy dialogue requires the involvement of willing participants. If the conversation is getting heated, it's perfectly healthy to take a few breaths and "pause" to gain your composure. If necessary, ask to delay the conversation if more time is needed to calm down-- but don't walk away or give up.
8. Hostile body language.
Crossed arms? No direct eye contact? Finger pointing? You have just lost the respect and attention of the person you are in conversation with.
9. Make it all about you.
Instead of doing all the talking, ask for the other person's thoughts and ideas on the subject. Try your best to see the issue from both sides. What you tell yourself about any situation is never one hundred percent accurate, and you are not always right in your preconceived ideas and assumptions.
10. Curse and swear.
This may seem obvious but it bears repeating. It can happen -- we are human, after all. However, your point will be utterly misplaced if you consistently pepper your conversation with offensive language.
11. Jump to conclusions.
The antidote to assumptions and judgment is always this: ask more questions. Dig for more information to ensure you are both on the same page. For the sake of clarity, recap what was said. Try, "So what I'm hearing you say is..."
12. Maintain an air of indifference.
If the other person sees that you are apathetic, your chances of reconciling a problem are very slim. Approach the dialogue with empathy and compassion, and be sure to maintain or enhance the person's self-regard.
13. Make sarcastic remarks.
While you may find it helps to interject sarcasm, it is not an effective tactic during a high-stakes conversation. It is often a self-defense mechanism that can be risky and far too open to interpretation. There are better ways to make your point.
14. Fail to say, "thank you."
There is huge power in an attitude of gratitude. Always thank the person and acknowledge their time and bandwidth in their contribution to the conversation.
15. Stretch the truth.
Exaggerating your side of the story and pumping up your hostility can only lead to one outcome: communication breakdown. Stick to the facts, and only the facts.