By: Clare Evans
For me, communication is important to many things in life. Particularly in the relationships we have with the people around us at work and at home.
How often do we misinterpret what’s been said or done, just because we don’t know how to communicate properly? Making assumptions based on our own, perhaps narrow perspective and not taking into account what other people might be feeling or thinking.
How to communicate is something we learn early on in life and if we don’t know how to do it properly or we get it wrong, it can lead to poor communication throughout the rest of our life. We fall into bad habits, feel uncomfortable having difficult conversations, avoid conflict or arguments and prefer just to keep quiet.
Learning how to talk and how to say what you feel is important in maintaining good relationships, not just in your personal life but with the people you work with. If you can’t tell someone how you feel, how can you expect them to know? None of us are mind readers.
It can seem uncomfortable at first if you’re not used to it and it may not come out quite as you intended. Be genuine you will be able to get the message across, as long as the person is open to what you are saying.
Always be clear in the words that you use, the tone of your voice and your body language. Think about the message you are trying to get across.
In this age of technology, with emails and text messages being used as a regular and accepted means of communication, there is even more chance for confusion and misinterpretation.
You can’t communicate feelings or humour in an email or a text. You need to know someone reasonably well to know whether a comment they’ve made is genuine, sarcastic or insulting. I’ve seen many an email or text discussion being totally misinterpreted because it’s been taken out of context and without the underlying feeling being known.
You can interpret a simple statement in a number of different ways just by changing the emphasis on a particular word. Using a different tone would give it a totally different meaning.
Don’t use email or text for discussions where emotional is an important part of the communication. Pick up the phone or arrange for a face-to-face discussion.
An important part of communication is not only speaking but also listening and listening properly, not just waiting for them to stop speaking so you can jump in. Really listen for what they are saying, forget about how you might be feeling, put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
Whether it’s in a work or personal situation, if you have something important or difficult you want to say then:
– Set aside some time specifically to discuss it, when you’re not going to be distracted or interrupted.
– Explain what you’re feeling and what needs to happen or what you would like to happen.
– Ask for their reaction – how do they feel about what you’ve said.
– Don’t be judgemental – accept what they are thinking and feeling.
– Allow time to adjust. Reacting in the heat of the moment is not always the wisest action.
– Make any serious decisions after you’ve had time to think things through.
Above all be honest. There’s nothing worse then being told what someone thinks they want you to hear and then finding out later they were being less than honest with you or with themselves. Perhaps they didn’t want to hurt your feelings but in the end it doesn’t help either of you.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve understood something correctly – ask. Many misunderstandings arise when people make assumptions about what’s been said or what someone means. Your interpretation of the world around you is different from someone else’s based on your background, views, behaviours, beliefs and values, so what you’re thinking may be different too.
I will always prefer to assume “positive intent” when communicating with someone and I recommend that you do too. On the whole people aren’t out to get you – so allow them to clarify if you think you may have misinterpreted or misunderstood what they’ve said.
Give people the benefit of the doubt and make your communication clear and direct.
Clare writes on several topics to help busy, stressed individuals and small business owners organise their lives more effectively. Register for her monthly newsletter at www.clareevans.co.uk and receive free tips on managing your time.