Relationships are not always a cakewalk, and they can be even more difficult if the channels of communication are not in proper working order. A good healthy dose of conflict isn’t necessarily bad or a sign that things are failing. Conflict offers a chance for growth and learning about oneself and another. It does help, however, to be skillful with words and the approach. Below is a helpful list of guidelines for improving your line of communication when obstacles arise within your relationships.
When sending messages:
1. CONFRONT DIRECTLY rather than ignore, grumble, or give up. Examples of confronting directly might be “Can I give you some feedback?” or “Can we talk?”
2. DESCRIBE the behavior rather than attack the person. For example, you might say…”When I saw…” or “When I heard you say…”
3. INFORM rather than withhold. When informing the other person, you might say “I thought it meant… or “I felt…” or “This is the situation as I see it…” or “I am concerned that…”
4. ASK rather than assume. For example, you might say “Did you realize that…” or “How did you see it?” or “What did you intend?” Finding out what the other person was thinking can be a huge help for solving a problem instead of allowing your imagination to take control. Throwing in an assumption can sometimes be the equivalent to adding more fuel to the fire. It’s better to find out from the person what was happening from their perspective rather than decide what they were thinking on your own.
5. MAKE SUGGESTIONS rather than whine or blame. You might ask, “Could we try…” or “Would you be willing to…” or “I would be willing to…”
Finally, adding in a moment to REFLECT BACK to the person what you hear them saying allows the line of communication to be even clearer. For example, once a message has been sent, you might respond with, “I heard you say….” This strategy is my favorite because it allows you to be sure you heard the person correctly, and it gives the other person an opportunity to make sure that the message they are trying to get across is happening successfully. Reflecting back demonstrates a sense of care and compassion, AND it helps everyone to feel like they’ve been heard. I like to think of it as active communication that is respectful and responsible. It does take patience and effort, but it’s well worth going that extra mile. Try it out and see what happens!!