Learn the basic communication skills so you can become a great listener. You might find that you will also feel heard a lot more than you ever did before. Strong communication skills are the cornerstone of all loving relationships, and they are also lay a great foundation for effective management in the workplace. Below are a few communication tools that I ask clients to use every day.
1. Try not to interrupt another person who is speaking to you. Let a person finish their thought before you respond. You will only be stepping on their idea, and confirming that you think your thoughts are more important.
2. Please try never to begin a sentence with the word “you.” It’s a real ear-closer. The listener’s brain is now too busy creating a defensive response or a counter attack, and is no longer listening to you.
3. Please re-word a “you” sentence with the word “I.” For example: I notice, I feel, I wonder, or I think. Ownership of an idea rather than an accusation lands more softly and is far more likely to be absorbed.
4. Summarize what your partner said to you before you respond. Ask two questions about the idea to let them know you care enough to learn more about it.
5. Please stay on one topic at a time. Piling on dilutes a great conversation, and multiple ideas launched simultaneously can bury a real treasure of a shared thought or feeling.
6. When you feel angry, use your words. Volume is intimidating and people will want to get away from you. It doesn’t make a person feel better, and it’s the best way I know of to not get heard.
7. Please do not swear, cuss or use vulgar language, especially when you are angry or frustrated. Derogatory name-calling doesn’t suit you either. Be your best self.
8. Researching and amplifying the past mistakes of your spouse may make you feel victorious, but remember this: if your spouse loses then so do you. Only a win-win builds a great relationship. If you must dredge up the past, work toward the goal of a resolution.
9. Please show respect to your partner. Most people feel respected when they are listened to, not interrupted, or asked for their point-of-view on a subject. Thoughtfulness works. Anticipation of the needs and likes of your girlfriend works. Consideration and mutual decision-making is key to creating a team that will last a lifetime.
10. Try to discuss each idea as an idea, not a personal attack. If you are the one who truly feel attacked, say that you feel that way. Remember, though that a request for a change in your behavior is likely not an attack on your character.
11. Recognize that every person is entitled to their own point of view. Even your wife! A person is not “wrong” because they do not see things in the same way you see them. My favorite of many communication skills is to stop telling a person that they are right or that they are wrong; better to say that you agree with them or that you have a different take on a subject. No one made you the decider!
Communication skills will come more naturally to you with practice. Summarizing a three-paragraph idea in a sentence or two is learned over time. But you will find conversation is richer once you understand that there’s no longer any need to persuade each other to see things your way. So go ahead and ask your wife something provocative. You may be surprised at how interesting she is.