By Anne Christen — One of many Living Healthy blogs on SmartLivingNetwork.com
Communication is a skill. It can be one you naturally possess or have acquired from training and education. Those who aren’t skillful communicators risk losing their audiences. While the actual topic of conversation is important, subtle factors like tone of voice, facial expressions, and listening skills also play crucial roles in communication. Knowing the characteristics of a proficient communicator can be extremely useful, but it’s equally important to recognize those that aren't as effective. This knowledge can help you make a few adjustments to your next conversation, so that you may express yourself well and interact to the best of your abilities.
One major attribute of poor communication is “you” language, including “you are…,” “you need to…” and “you must…” Directives like these either pass negative judgment or order another person to perform a task. Most people resent being judged or told what to do, and subsequently, using you-directive language often arouses feelings of resentment and defensiveness. Moreover, this type of communication invites “no” responses, which frequently result in disagreements and conflicts.
It is important to note, however, that some “you” statements are ideally suited to effective communication. You-positive statements, for instance, start with the word “you” and contain a positive comment (“you did a good job on this project” or “you have beautiful eyes”). Similarly, you-neutral statements begin with “you” and are followed by a factual or informative comment (“you can research elephants on the computer” or “you’re the first person to arrive”). These statements are generally fine to use in conversation.
Argumentative communicators – those who play devil’s advocate or constantly offer opposing opinions even when they’re not invited – are inadvertently poor communicators. Constantly opposing the comments of others makes them feel wrong, stupid or uninformed, which instantly kills a conversation. Likewise, interrupting your listeners sends the message that you don’t value what they’re saying. You believe, instead, what you have to say is more important.
Instead of arguing or interrupting, use these techniques when communicating: express opposing opinions by acknowledging the other person’s thoughts and then sharing your own. You might start with, “I see what you’re saying. In my experience…” And rather than interrupting, take a break after your partner has finished speaking. This shows that you took in what they said and appreciate their time.
One of the most frustrating traits of ineffective communicators is constant complaining. People who have to endure this become annoyed, at the very least, and they’re likely to tune you out or avoid you altogether if you communicate this way on a regular basis. Few people want to be subjected to the woes of a person who complains rather than directly asks for solutions.
Another ineffective trait, passing judgment, not only labels you as negative but also forces others to question your opinions. When Brad says, “Sue is really acting stressed. She must have a lot going on right now,” it’s an observation, rather than a judgment. But when Rachel responds with, “I know what you mean. She’s never handled stress well. She’s been rude lately, and I’m tired of her behavior,” she’s made a judgment.
When judging others, you may feel like you’re taking a side, but you’re actually alienating yourself and showing a lack of self-respect. This instantly alerts others that you are insecure and don’t value those around you. Don’t fall into this trap; instead, respond in a way that strengthens your position of respect and self-esteem.
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