Improving Relationships Part 3 – Creating Healthy Communication Pathways
The first step to creating healthy communication pathways is to start with only a single pathway at a time. Most communication happens with both individuals communicating their point of view while trying to simultaneously listen and absorb new knowledge. This flow of information, both inwards and outwards at the same time, makes healthy pathways more difficult. Start by having only one person act as the speaker, while the other person acts as the listener.
The goal of the listener is to try and hear the ideas and opinions from the other person’s perspective. This is NOT about listening to agree – this is listening to understand. The role of the listener is by far the hardest role in all of human communication – but it’s also the most important. You must never break your role of listener, even while hearing facts, feelings, or opinions that are different from your own. Save your perspective for when it’s your turn to be the speaker.
The goal of the speaker is to communicate an idea, feeling, or opinion to the listener. While the speaker is an easier role to play, it can be difficult to be the speaker in a respectful and healthy way.
Follow the guidelines below to perfect your speaker and listener abilities:
- Give the speaker your full attention.
- Use head-nodding or other gestures to help the speaker know that you are following them.
- Ask insightful questions ONLY if the speaker takes a break – these questions must only be used to better understand the speaker. Never use questions to break down the speaker’s arguments, feelings, or opinions.
- Keep your mouth shut – this is by far the hardest part. Don’t speak, except for encouraging. words or to let the speaker know you are following them.
- Try to listen from the speaker’s perspective, not from your own.
- Accept that your perspective may not be the only correct opinion.
- Speak only for yourself, do not speak for others.
- Do not speak using assumptions.
- Do not use “mind reading” to interpret why someone did something.
- Speak in a calm, quiet tone.
- Use mild non-verbal communication.
- Include facts AND feelings.
- Communicate only a single point at a time to keep from overwhelming the listener.
- Give the listener a chance to speak once you have been heard.
- If things get heated, take a break, but if you must take a break ask for a break respectfully and let the other person know when you will be ready to continue.
- Do not intentionally use hurtful words to prove your point.
- Do not criticize.
- Try not to be defensive.
- If you hear something you don’t like, try asking questions rather than shutting down.
- Start the communication session by expression how important the other person is to you
- End the communication session by stating how important their opinion is to you.
- Be patient, take your time.
Please read part 1 - Learning and part 2 - Communication Barriers of this series
For more tools, check out our educational program or speak to one of our highly educated coaches.