We all know how to communicate. If I stick my tongue out at someone they will get the gist of what I am communicating to them, however, their response may not be very positive and full clarity in our communication may never happen.
To truly communicate in a way that other people can hear without defensiveness or heightened emotion is a skill. Slowing down and thinking about how you are getting your point across to someone while using these skills will help in all areas of your life, be it work, relationships or just trying to get your coffee order across at Starbucks.
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Use ‘I’ statements. An ‘I’ statement is structured to take responsibility for your feeling and refrain from telling someone else how to act or feel themselves. Try something like this: “I feel ________, when you_______.” Such as “I feel angry when you tell me I’m fat,” rather than, “You make me so angry when you tell me I’m fat!" You may be surprised at how it helps the other person let go of their defenses.
Stick to facts. Describe what it is that you need or what you are concerned about in a clear non-emotional manner. When you stick to facts others are less likely to defend because there isn’t anything yet to defend against; no blaming, no aggression.
When you describe a situation that happened you can even ask them if that is how they remember it happening. After you have gotten the concern across clearly then you can calmly let them know how this impacted you emotionally. Try using one of those ‘I’ statements.
Don’t assume. None of us are mind readers. Regardless of how obvious you feel what you are communicating must be, avoid assuming that the other person knows what you know. Too often I hear people say things like “but he should know that I don’t like that.” Even when it seems perfectly clear to you, if the other person keeps doing the opposite, then maybe they truly just don’t get it and really do need to you to educate them.
Ask for what you want. Again, do not assume that others know what you need or want. Be willing to tell them – the alternative is to not get your need met. When we sit quietly by and do not ask for what we want, or do not speak up when options are on the table, we lose the right to complain about it later.
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Be willing to say what you want even if it might not be popular with others or it may not be what someone else wants. You either get what you want or get to negotiate. Either way you are closer to getting your needs met than when you weren’t saying anything.
Say ‘No’ clearly. If it is necessary to say no to a request from someone else, be clear about it rather than leaving any opening for confusion. Actually use the word ‘no.’ If you hint at the 'no' but never say it, then you have not been clear.