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Top 6 Secrets to Mastering Communication

Oct 25, 2007
Communicating with others is an essential skill in business dealings, family affairs, and romantic relationships, and is an essential part of any personal development effort. Do you often find yourself misunderstanding others? Do you have difficulty getting your point across clearly? When it comes to communication, what you say and what you don't say are equally important. Being a good listener is quite crucial.

In my quest to become a better communicator, I came across a few things I will have to overcome before I succeed:

Challenge 1

Listen more carefully and responsively. Listen first and acknowledge what you hear, even if you don't agree with it, before expressing your experience or point of view. In order to get more of your conversation partner's attention in tense situations, pay attention first: listen and give a brief restatement of what you have heard (especially feelings) before you express your own needs or position. The kind of listening recommended here separates acknowledging from approving or agreeing.

Challenge 2

Explain your conversational intent and invite consent. In order to help your conversation partner cooperate with you and to reduce possible misunderstandings, start important conversations by inviting your conversation partner to join you in the specific kind of conversation you want to have. The more the conversation is going to mean to you, the more important it is for your conversation partner to understand the big picture. Many successful communicators begin special conversations with a preface that goes something like: "I would like to talk with you for a few minutes about [subject matter]. When would be a good time?" The exercise for this step will encourage you to expand your list of possible conversations and to practice starting a wide variety of them.

Challenge 3

Express yourself more clearly and completely. Slow down and give your listeners more information about what you are experiencing by using a wide range of "I-statements." One way to help get more of your listener's empathy is to express more of the five basic dimensions of your experience: Here is an example using one of the five main "I-messages" identified by various researchers over the past half century: What are you seeing, hearing or otherwise sensing?/ "When I saw the dishes in the sink..."

Challenge 4

Translate your (and other people's) complaints and criticisms into specific requests, and explain your requests. In order to get more cooperation from others, whenever possible ask for what you want by using specific, action-oriented, positive language rather than by using generalizations, "why's" ,"don'ts" or "somebody should's." Help your listeners comply by explaining your requests with a "so that...", "it would help me to... if you would..." or "in order to..." Also, when you are receiving criticism and complaints from others, translate and restate the complaints as action requests. ....").

Challenge 5

Ask questions more "openendedly" and more creatively. "Openendedly...":
In order to coordinate our life and work with the lives and work of other people, we all need to know more of what other people are feeling and thinking, wanting and planning. But our usual "yes/no" questions actually tend to shut people up rather than opening them up. In order to encourage your conversation partners to share more of their thoughts and feelings, ask "open-ended" rather than "yes/no" questions. Open-ended questions allow for a wide range of responses. For example, asking "How did you like that food/movie /speech/doctor/etc.?" will evoke a more detailed response than "Did you like it?" (which could be answered with a simple "yes" or "no"). In the first part of Challenge Five we explore asking a wide range of open-ended questions.

Challenge 6

Express more appreciation.

To build more satisfying relationships with the people around you, express more appreciation, delight, affirmation, encouragement and gratitude. Because life continually requires us to attend to problems and breakdowns, it gets very easy to see in life only what is broken and needs fixing. But satisfying relationships (and a happy life) require us to notice and respond to what is delightful, excellent, enjoyable, to work well done, to food well cooked, etc. It is appreciation that makes a relationship strong enough to accommodate differences and disagreements. Thinkers and researchers in several different fields have reached similar conclusions about this: healthy relationships need a core of mutual appreciation.
About the Author
Copyright 2006 www.BurstCreativity.com
Alexander Tretjakov
Personal Development Blog and Unconventional Thinking University
Author of MiWay Time Management System
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