If I had to summarise what I have been up to this week, I could do it in one word “communicating”! I have led several presentations on communication skills, exercised my own communication skills and interacted with other people’s communications in a business planning workshop. The obvious question is what did I learn from all that? Communication is the key to building and maintaining relationships, whether it is within a military unit, a family, a marriage or a friendship! OK, you already know that, so what are you doing to improve your communication skills? I started out with about 20 things on my list, but with some massaging I came up with the following 11 hints on how to communicate more effectively:
- Change perspective! All too often we so caught up with how we see things that we are unable to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. To begin the process make a commitment to see things from new angles.
- Own your stuff! Take responsibility for what you have done and said. If you have made a mistake, own up to it. Lying and covering up will always stuff up the communication process.
- Must listen! This should be obvious but in general we are lazy listeners. To improve your communication work harder on listening, stay focussed on what is being shared. Seek to only deal with one issue at a time.
- Make it clear! When it is time for you to speak make your message clear and concise, feeding back what you have heard as the real issue. Yes, emotion often is involved, but do not let this confuse the message.
- Understand before seeking to be understood! Communication is always a two way street, so refuse to jump to conclusions, ask questions to make sure that you both understand the issue before seeking a solution.
- No blaming! Resist the urge to see the other party as the problem, in most cases BOTH sides will share some guilt! Recognition of how you have contributed to the issue and asking forgiveness will make all other steps easier.
- I messages! Own and express your feelings, state how the current situation has affected you without making it ‘all about you’. Show some sensitivity and refuse to adopt the victim mentality.
- Compromise! The aim is not to win the argument but to seek out win/win solutions. Start thinking outside the box to find a resolution that both sides will be happy with.
- Ask for help! If the process gets bogged down don’t be afraid to ask for help from a counsellor or even the padre who may be able help you see new alternatives and give new perspectives.
- Time out! If things get heated or overly emotional, it sometimes helps to take a break to allow for cooling off. But don’t use this as an opportunity to avoid confronting the real issue, set a specific time and place to conclude the process.
- Expect the best! Don’t give up on the relationship just because it is hard work, grow through the process, learn some new skills and believe that they too want it to work.
There is a lot there to absorb, and sometimes when you have tried all that, what you need is a miracle but I believe in those as well! God wants your relationships to work so if you still struggling maybe it is time to try prayer!
Chaplain Ian S Whitley