5 Steps to Better Communication Today
Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist between two emotional human beings who bring their own past experiences, history, and expectations into it. Two different people also have different levels of skill when it comes to communication. But better communication, because it is a skill, can also be learned.
The most popular myth about communication in relationships is that since you talk to your partner, you’re automatically communicating. While talking to your partner is indeed a form of communication, if it’s primarily about everyday, “surfacey” topics (“How were the kids?” “How was work?” “How’s your mother?”), you’re not really communicating about the important stuff. This article is primarily about how to talk in a more open and rewarding manner with your significant other.
Communication either makes or breaks most relationships. You can improve your relationship today, right now, by putting into practice some of these tips for improving the communication in your relationship.
1. Stop and listen.
How many times have you heard someone say this or read this in an article about communication skills? How hard is it to actually do when you’re “in the moment?” Harder than it sounds. When we’re knee deep within a serious discussion or argument with our significant other, it’s hard to put aside our point for the moment and just listen. We’re often so afraid of not being heard, we rush to keep talking. Ironically, such behavior makes it all the more likely we won’t be heard.
2. Make the complex simple.
Your employees and customers are being bombarded 24/7 by information, making it hard for them to hear you. Simplicity has never been more powerful or necessary. Effective leaders distill complex thoughts and strategies into simple, memorable terms that colleagues and customers can grasp and act upon. If you’re having trouble distilling something to its essence, it may be that you don’t understand it. So get clear and look out for technical jargon and business speak, which add complexity. Say what you mean in as few words as possible.
Visibility is about letting your key stakeholders get a feel for who you are and what you care about. It’s easy to hide behind a computer and transmit messages to others without seeing or interacting with them.
Although e-communication serves a valuable purpose, it is no substitute for face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication. In today’s environment, people are often burned out and need to feel a personal connection to you and the work that you believe in. Do a “calendar test” to make sure you’re allocating time regularly to be out on the floor, in the factory, in the call center, in the lab, in the store. Show your people that you’re engaged and care about them and their work.
4. Be open and honest with your partner.
Some people have never been very open to others in their life. Heck, some people might not even know themselves, or know much about their own real needs and desires. But to be in a relationship is to take a step toward opening up your life and opening up yourself.
Little lies turn into big lies. Hiding your emotions behind a cloak of invincibility might work for you, but won’t work for most others. Pretending everything is alright isn’t alright. And giving your partner the silent treatment is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle. In the desert. At night. These things may have “worked” for you in the past, but they are all barriers to good communication.
Being open means talking about things you may have never talked about with another human being before in your life. It means being vulnerable and honest with your partner, completely and unabashedly. It means opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment. But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be.
5. Stay focused in the here and now.
Sometimes discussions turn into arguments, that can then morph into a discussion about everything and the kitchen sink. To be respectful of one another and the relationship, you should try and keep the discussion (or argument) focused to the topic at hand. While it’s easy to get in the cheap shots or bring up everything that an argument seems to call for, just don’t. If the argument is ostensibly about who’s making dinner tonight, keep it that topic. Don’t veer off down the country road of who does what in the house, who’s responsible for child rearing, and by the way, who cleans the kitchen sink.
Arguments that do veer off tend to escalate and grow larger and larger. One party needs to make an effort at that point to try and de-escalate the argument, even if it means walking away from it, literally. But do so as respectfully as possible, saying something like, “Look, I can see this isn’t going to get any better by discussing it tonight. Let’s sleep on it and try talking about it with fresh eyes in the morning, okay?”