The Secret Behind Effective Communication

It helps to have good communication skills boiled down to the basics, but knowing what we should being doing and actually doing it are two different stories. Do you have any tips on putting these skills into practice?

This may sound strange, but we have discovered that talking about good communication is often easier than practicing it. Too often, we understand what to do but for a variety of reasons — we’re distracted, feeling stressed out, or simply forgetting what to do — we don’t do it. Even the experts sometimes have difficulty following their own advice.

After years of trying to practice good communication, we have found it helpful to sometimes use a “cheat sheet.” A small card or piece of paper carried in a purse or wallet can contain three or four basic communication reminders to keep us on track. When we find our conversation breaking down, pulling out this little card tells us what we need to do to correct the problem. It’s amazing how helpful a simple devise like this can be.

Something else that has helped is what we call “micro-communication skills.” If you have ever taken golf lessons, you know that the instructor begins by having you focus only on one skill at a time. The first lesson, for example, may be solely on how you hold the club. You will hit dozens of balls while focusing solely on your grip. Next, the position of your feet is the focal point, then your shoulders, and so on. The same is true of learning good communication. Try focusing on just one skill at a time. In your next conversation, for example, be empathic. Use your head and your heart to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Don’t worry about any other of the important skills. Just think about what your partner is experiencing. By limiting yourself in this way, you will better put into practice all of what you need to have good communication — one skill at a time.

If you continue to experience frustration in not being able to practice what you know to do, seek some coaching. An objective third party, such as a counselor, can often help you see your blind spots and transcend them. In only a session or two, you will most likely find your communication taking huge strides forward.

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