Communication is the fabric of all relationships. All living things communicate. When properly understood, it is the most important tool for enhancing our quality of life. It is not just the words we say, but the way we say them that dictates whether our communication is effective. What we intend to express passes in a look, in the way we feel towards a person and even in the thoughts we have about each other. The art of communication is very powerful and subtle.
Effective communication enables us to exchange realities with each other. This leads to an expanded and enhanced reality – one that has grown from the interchange of the two. It provides a common ground for all age groups, races and religions. It can build friendships, increase agreement, express culture and further our understanding of our reality. An exploration of communication requires us to develop an increased awareness of personal energy, emotions and thoughts. By becoming aware of these aspects, we become more refined and powerful in our communication. Take a moment to survey your current reality. The quality of the relationships you have right now are a direct response to the communication you have given or withheld, received or resisted. There is no skill more important than communication. The development of this skill is an ongoing and lifelong journey.
“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.”
16 Communication Tips to Improve Any Relationship
The ability to communicate potently is one of the most important life skills we can learn – yet many of us never even consider putting much effort into improving our skills. If you want to have more productive conversations in your social life or increase your influence at work, our 16 essential tips are a must have:
1. Avoid mixed messages
Saying one thing and contradicting it in a non-verbal way raises suspicion. 93% of communication is non-verbal. We communicate with words, tone, facial expressions, gestures, and body language. If you ever want to be taken seriously by anyone, be mindful of sending mixed messages. Your verbal and non-verbal messages must be in alignment.
2. Deal with it now
Delays compound communication issues by creating layers of negative emotions. It may not feel natural at first, especially if you do not enjoy confrontation. Learn to dive into tough talks by reframing your thoughts.
3. Respect cross-cultural relationships
Our natural tendency is to think that how we behave and act is universal. When someone differs from you, be mindful of not jumping on to a negative view of them. Understand that people from different cultures may attach a different meaning to certain gestures or words so this may affect their interpretation of your communication.
4. Always show respect
The point of any discussion is not to win. It is not your job to make someone agree with you. This is a key component in respect. It is okay to disagree. The purpose of conversing is to learn from someone else – not to sway them to believe what you believe. It’s even okay to come away from a conversation with your own mind changed.
5. Accept other perspectives
Because everyone views the world through their own unique lens, we each have a unique perspective. No two people will see a situation or issue in exactly the same way. Don’t assume that your perspective is the only one or the valid one. In fact, another person’s perspective may improve your original concept.
6. Focus on the current issue
Communication becomes clouded when the past is dumped into the conversation. It is wise to avoid bringing unrelated grievances, complaints, and past sins to the table.
7. Fight fair
Focus communication on the subject, not the speaker. Resist lowering yourself to fault finding, exaggerations, put-downs, name-calling, blaming, insults, sarcasm, and absolutes…”You always”,” You never.” Avoid “You should” or “You shouldn’t” as well. These unfair verbal weapons will only escalate an argument due to their attacking nature. This will increase the divide and result in the other person taking a defensive posture.
8. Be clear
Be concise and specific with your words. Stay on message. If you are not clear on the ideas you are trying to express, how can you expect the other person or group to be?
9. Be honest about your feelings
Resist saying “You made me feel.” Giving your personal power away is simply an excuse for bad behaviour. “I” statements are much more concise and effective… ”I felt like crap when you said…” This is a far superior way of expressing your feelings.
10. Speak the truth
The most important thing you can bring to any communication is honesty. If what you’re saying isn’t true, then nothing real is being shared and you’re wasting everyone’s time and energy. Speak your truth as much as you are able to, with clarity, love, and gentleness. When you dodge the truth out of fear for how it will be received, you only build bigger walls between you and others.
10. Avoid making or accepting excuses too quickly
When things don’t quite pan out as you had imagined, do you typically take ownership? Do you take responsibility or initiative? Or do you just make excuses? Excuses are cowardly and keep us stuck in limbo. And in the long-run, the people making them end up feeling miserable as their excuses turn into the regrets of a life that could have been lived.
11. Hearing vs. Listening
Hearing is an accidental and automatic brain response to sound that requires no effort. We are surrounded by sounds most of the time. Listening, on the other hand, is purposeful and focused rather than accidental. As a result, it requires motivation and effort. Listening, at its best, is active, focused, concentrated attention for the purpose of understanding the meanings expressed by a speaker. Active listening involves setting aside judgment during the listening process and using nonverbal communication – such as facial expressions, gestures, and other forms of body language – to show the speaker that complete attention is being paid to their message.
12. Gain clarity
Clarification involves offering back to the speaker the essential meaning, as understood by the listener, of what they perceived was communicated. In this way you can be sure you are on the same page and resolve any areas of confusion or misunderstanding.
13. Be conscious of your tone
No matter the content of the things we say, it’s our tone that communicates what we’re feeling when we say them. Our tone tells the truth even when our words don’t, even when we’re unaware of that truth ourselves. And it’s our tone to which others respond.
14. Use positive statements and humour
In ye olde days of kings who ruled with absolute power, only the court jester could safely tell the king the truth, mediated through humour. Anyone else who attempted to tell the Emperor he had no clothes was in danger of losing their head! Humour is a valuable and effective tool for communicating just about anything because humour breaks down barriers. Carefully disguised as fun, humour can smuggle new ideas into people’s hearts.
15. Break the curse of unspoken expectations
Most people only communicate what they expect from a relationship after they have been disappointed or let down. Unless you are surrounded by mind readers, unspoken expectations ruin relationships. When expectations are communicated clearly and calmly, with a desire to grow the relationship (and not just beat the other side down) relationships flourish.
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Non-violent Communication – Skilful Connection
While there is general agreement that leadership models are undergoing rapid transformation. For the most part, we’re still in the grip of the old command-and-control leadership paradigm… albeit in the dying throws of that grip. Most organisational cultures still reflect the outdated mindset of authoritarian leaders. However, it only takes a flash of insight to unify consciousness so change is happening much faster than you might first think. No matter what your situation is, the fate of every leader depends on their ability to communicate with clarity and mutuality. Establishing great communication so you can be a conscious leader that people love has an emphasis on awareness, empathy and compassion. So, what does conscious communication sound like?
Will you get your work done this week?
This closed question demands a “yes” or “no” answer. It takes no other information into consideration other than answering the question correctly and then meeting the expectation.
What do you need to hit your deadline this week?
This open question communicates the message “I know you are working and I want to make sure your needs are met to hit the mark of completion”. It also asks you for your input while offering assistance in meeting your needs. There is not a right or wrong answer or one-word reply. The question respectfully opens the lines of communication while showing interest and support.
“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you…unless you believe them. Then, they can destroy you.”
Stop Wasting Words
Anxiety changes the way leaders speak to people. Rather than making requests of others, anxious leaders mistakenly make demands. Demands instantly create resistance in the team. Resistance in the team causes leaders to be fearful of unaccomplished goals. Then when you lead from fear you get nowhere – fast – with your team. Words have a huge impact on what you can get done. Words have local meanings in the workplace that can be destructive or transformative. Words can build cohesive teams or tear teams apart. Words can get you fired as a leader and words can destroy any business. Words can be violent. If we define violence as causing harm to ourselves and others, then much of the way we communicate has the possibility to indeed be violent. We all have an innate capacity for compassion, but it is easy to become detached from this capacity in our pursuit to achieve our goals and get our way. When we get our way through fear, guilt, shame, or coercion, we are just as likely to suffer as those who give in to our will. Violent communication need not be malevolent; often, it is automatic and habitual.
“When someone tells you that you have done something that has hurt them,
you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”
The NVC Process to Elevate Connections
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a process through which we can learn to express ourselves clearly and honestly while listening to our needs and others. Conscious leaders speak with integrity, lead with authenticity and hold themselves accountable. They listen with the intent to understand and not just to respond, and they do it by being in tune with themselves and the world around them. Conscious leaders reframe how they express themselves as well as how they hear others. Conscious leaders breathe life into radical giving and receiving in the workplace. Conscious communication replaces robotic reactions and habitual patterns that are not working. Conscious Communication can be built like any habit when we speak in terms of OFNR: what we Observe, Feel, Need, and Requests. There are four steps and two parts to Nonviolent Communication:
NVC emphasises observation without judgment. This means presenting the simple facts we have observed. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me” you can say, “In our meeting today, I noticed that you were on your phone.”
Learning to practice NVC entails learning to separate what you observe from personal value judgments on that observation. By reserving judgment, you prevent the triggering of defences so you can open up the possibility for an exchange that leads to understanding. Sharing these observations with others is the first step.
NVC involves taking responsibility for your feelings. This requires a change in perspective of how other people’s words and actions impact our feelings. What others say and do is considered the stimulus, but never the cause of our feelings. How we choose to respond – along with our needs, expectations and thoughts we have about the situation – are what causes our feelings. When faced with a negative message from someone else, NVC illuminates four options. To illustrate these options, let’s use the example of criticism, “You’re so selfish”. You can choose to:
Take it personally: “I really am selfish…”
Fight back: “I’m not selfish; you’re selfish!”
Consider your own feelings and needs: Say something like: “When I hear you say that I am selfish, I feel hurt because it sounds like you do not recognise that I put in effort to consider your preferences.” By connecting your feelings with your needs, you make it easier for others to respond compassionately.
Consider the other person’s feelings and needs: Ask something like: “Are you feeling hurt because you need more consideration for your preferences?”. This response opens space in the conversation for the other person to express their underlying needs.
To bypass the first two likely automatic reactions, we must be tuned into options three or four. In this way, we are empowered to take responsibility – ability to respond – by choosing how to interact with each other. This means we are more likely to understand others and have our own needs met.
Make the connection between feelings and unmet needs. These needs are common and fundamental to all human beings. The outer expression of feelings, such as anger and frustration, can be seen as indicators of needs, such as love and acceptance, that are unfulfilled. This step requires we turn inward to understand our own needs. By expanding the vocabulary of feeling words, we can increase the nuance with which we can pinpoint and describe our needs so we can articulate them effectively to others.
Make specific, doable requests for things that enrich your life. Make them in such a way that it enables the other person to respond compassionately to the request. Requests are never demanded. NVC considers demands always to be violent, intimidating, and forceful – the source of many ineffective and unhelpful communication exchanges. Requests must be positive. This means requesting what you want, rather than what you don’t want. An example of this would be saying: “I’d like you to spend more time with me at home” rather than “I don’t want you to spend so much time at work.” The most effective way to separate a request from a demand is to include in the statement your own feelings and needs. This requires being conscious of what you are asking for and why you are asking for it. The clearer your request, the more likely you will get what it is that you are requesting.
NVC is a reciprocal exchange that can be broken into two parts:
- Expressing honestly through the four components, and
- Receiving empathically through the four components. The second part depends on listening abilities, which are considered more important than speaking abilities.
“Cooperativeness is not so much learning how to get along with others as taking the kinks out of ourselves, so that others can get along with us.”
Conflict without Chaos
Conscious communication removes the narrative people automatically tell themselves. The story you create in your head is typically an opinion based on very little information. It is likely that you are rehearsing this story about a person or situation, which is rendering you less than your best as a leader. Rather than blaming, the first step is to become self-aware so you can share your emotional audit with others.
When conflict arises in the workplace, people have two tendencies:
- To hide from it and hope it just goes away
- To hit it head-on and say the first thing that pops up
Neither response is effective. Avoiding conflict allows it to become infected and, which only results in making more people sick. Excessive speed in response, without a strategy, can turn a battle into a war. Slow down. Consider the process and lead those around you through it.
“You can’t work with people you hate and succeed. At least, you won’t get the optimum of what you would have obtained when you work with people you love.”
5 Steps to Transformational Communication
As organisations quickly adapted to overnight remote working environments due to the pandemic, organisational culture took a hit. While remote working empowered organisations to continue operating, there’s no getting around the fact that this type of working environment is devoid of critical communication signals, such as body language. This certainly applies to organisations that previously relied on in-person, face-to-face communication. It also still affects companies that already had a distributed workforce before the pandemic began.
Pandemic, alien invasion or business as usual, organisational culture can be a struggle for any company at any time. Prioritising effective internal communication is paramount when influencing company culture. Here are five relatively simple internal communication ideas that can help organisations improve their company culture.
1. Formally Open a Dialogue
Often, seemingly disengaged employees have a lot to say when they are asked. The trick is to ask them in a way that makes them feel comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback. For some, an appropriate option is to create a digital suggestion box that allows an employee to easily and anonymously (if they prefer) share ideas, feedback or concerns. For others, taking the time to have a member of the leadership team reach out and talk to them individually may be the most effective. No matter what type of system you use, the program must actively facilitate listening to employees. The feedback can then be responsibly shared with the leadership team so appropriate actions can be determined and taken. In this way, the leadership team is operating with an understanding of employees’ concerns.
2. Rinse and Repeat
Now, more than ever before, leaders are being pulled in so many directions that they must be intentional about gathering, listening to and sharing employee feedback. The cultural focus in this area must come from the top – everyone needs to know the company values regular employee feedback. By establishing employee feedback as a regular agenda item at leadership team meetings, organisations can encourage and empower senior leaders to be more thoughtful and proactive about asking for that feedback.
3. Variety is Communication Spice.
Just as marketing and communications leaders ask for input on external company announcements before release, leaders must preview any internal announcements. In this way, the team improves how information is shared (the words used or the medium chosen). It can also help you anticipate (and therefore work to mitigate) any fallout or negative reactions. Similarly, leaders need to be prepared with recommended talking points or examples of answers to expected questions. In this way, companies empower their leadership team, and employees hear an aligned message which fosters a deeper connection to the company.
4. Up-down and All-around.
Information often gets stuck and never quite makes its way up to the decision makers who can take action or work to address an issue. A common reason is that people assume the senior leaders don’t want to hear their concerns or they may not know who the appropriate person to tell is. Relying on upward communication and expecting it to simply just happen is delusional. Communication must flow up, down and around to employees. The concept of transparency often comes up in the context of internal communication and employee engagement. Beyond that, though, is the importance of prioritising the sharing of information. When employees see that their leaders want to communicate with them, it can open up a dialogue that can benefit the entire organisation.
5. Two Ears. One Mouth.
Most people listen to respond, so they are not really listening, they are formulating a response. This causes the person who is supposed to be listening to be more focused on their own opinion than on comprehending the idea, issue or concern. Active listening is imperative. It’s okay to pause and process before responding. Oftentimes, employees may value a leader’s listening and understanding even more than a response.
“Being a leader isn’t a title, it’s a lifestyle and there is no on and off switch.”
The Ride of a Lifetime
Our moment of choice is at hand. There has never been a more urgent moment for humanity to come together in synergy and collectively choose to hold the greatest vision of what we can be and do together. When we are each the leader, we advance with our hearts and co-create new possibilities that will offer us all hope for the future. The lessons we learn in times of struggle are invaluable. If you are reading this, then you are here to show others the way. Conscious leadership is not for sissies. Cultivating personal and life practices to stay grounded in the face of whatever presents means you can show up in every hard conversation, and make every hard decision with grace. Conscious leadership uses a much more complex formula for decision making than profit-first. Conscious leaders expose their insides, reveal their deepest visions for the world, and risk ridicule in a system that doesn’t always value their heart-based motivations for participating in it.
“Whatever you do, do it as a master, not as a slave.”
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Leadership
The world needs compelling leaders to role model what the future can look like if we have the courage to change. Visionaries, revolutionaries and change makers all over the globe must break free from everything that has held them back in the past. Once free of those shackles, they can joyfully offer their highest contribution to our collective future, and welcome in the abundance they need to live their fullest life. The world needs a new way, and people like YOU to show the way. To heal the world and the workplace; to create the visions and build the edifices of the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
This is a call to action, a call to adventure! We challenge YOU to do the deep, personal work so you can step up and put your soul on deck. For, what are you if you are not your boldest, most vulnerable, most brilliant self as a conscious leader. The biggest shifts required to go down this path are not shifts of strategy, or even shifts of story; they are shifts of state, of consciousness, of mindset. Where your focus and energy goes, the rest of your life and your leadership will follow.
“Don’t let your fear of criticism suffocate your leadership potential. Once you begin to speak your truth, you will discover the people who have been waiting for someone exactly like you. Until you speak up, all you need is the faith that they exist. And I promise you: they do.”
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