We communicate all day long, be it at home, work, social settings etc. The sad thing is that the majority of us have inadequate communication skills. Hence, an overload of destructive conflict at home, the workplace, and society in general. Fortunately, these skills can be learned but sadly we often neglect to do so.

Perhaps the most important reason why communication between individuals and groups do not always unfold in constructive and appropriate ways is that we enter the process with our personal interests at heart. It is a matter of “I want to be heard,” “I want my way” and “The person/people opposite me have to listen to me.” This means that my personal ego gets in the way. Unfortunately, this blocks the process and is a sure recipe to ensure misunderstanding. What follows are a few full proof attitudes that can help the process along. They are:

  • Show compassion. This means showing a willingness to listen with the purpose of understanding what the other person has to say irrespective of whether you agree with it. Show genuine interest and do not interrupt the person.
  • Show interest and curiosity in what the other party is expressing whether you are in agreement or not. Prevent yourself from interrupting prematurely.
  • Ask clearly what you would like from the conversation in a way the other person will understand. It seems simple enough, but we often fall into the trap of believing others should just “know” what we are thinking.
  • Choose what you are going to say very carefully and pick the right time to say it. Timing is almost everything when it comes to words.
  • Show appreciation when a person does share in an authentic way. Honour this and never use this against the person in future, or break confidence by telling someone else.
  • Respect for individuality is imperative. If the person you are communicating with seems upset, ask if anything is troubling them. If they do not want to share, accept this without feeling angry or rejected.

Adopting these attitudes can make communication an effective and efficient process. When others experience this, their attitudes also change for the better and threats are eradicated from the communication process. Destructive emotions are contained and mutual understanding is facilitated.

Do the following exercise:
Write down a difficult communication situation you experienced with another. Check what happened against the attitudes listed above. Where did difficulties and arise and how could it have been better?