Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Communication

There is one thing I actually heard Pastor Morris Venden say on my wedding day, as I stood before him with my handsome groom by my side and stars in my eyes: “The key to a successful marriage is communication. I’ve found this advice to be as sound for relationships with my colleagues, friends, and children, as it has been for my relationship with my husband. And writers are all about communication. It's what we do! Here are a few keys to successful communication. See if you can figure out how they apply to writing:

Find time for personal contact. In this age of technology, we often find ourselves emailing or texting our words. For basic communication, there’s nothing wrong with a quick conversation; however, if you have something important to say, you need face to face interaction. When people meet in person, they can read facial expressions and body language, which may prevent miscommunication. There is nothing like the connection created by personal contact.

Be nice. Liz Strauss, over at Successful Blog, loves to say this, and if this sounds like something you learned in Kindergarten, that’s because it is. No matter what you’re saying, it sounds better in the context of “please” and “thank you.” If you’re discussing something that is sensitive or emotional, it is more difficult to maintain an attitude of courtesy, but courtesy shows that you respect and care – even though you may be upset.

Be consistent and clear. Again, this is more difficult to achieve when emotions are involved. It may be helpful to have a conversation with yourself first, to ensure you know what you want to say and what you don’t. Have your conversation out loud. Sometimes hearing yourself say something will clarify just how straightforward or confusing your comments are. Make sure your words are appropriate for the audience. Children sometimes require different words that adults, and spouses sometimes require different words than friends. If it’s important enough to say, make sure you say it clearly.

There are at least two sides to every story. If you can remember this going into the conversation, you’ll come out on a much better path. Conflict resolution is never about a right and a wrong side. It is always about the perception that led to the conflict and the ideas behind the action or reaction. Whether you’re talking to children, a spouse, a colleague, or a friend, find out what their perception of the situation is before explain your own. You may find some issues become invalidated once you understand each other more clearly.

Before you say a word, listen. I admitted earlier this month that listening is my goal for 2009. Good communication has always been about good listening, and it still is. No matter how you’re feeling inside, be sincerely interested in what the other person is saying. Listening validates the speech, which validates the speaker. When you listen, you’re basically saying “I respect you enough to give you my time and attention.” There will come a time when it is your turn to be heard. If you give someone your complete attention, they’ll be more likely to return the favor.

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