How do I make my communications clear?
In Miscommunication: Mistake Prevention (1), I went through some very specific, down-to-earth information that would improve your communication skills. To briefly summarize, some helpful communication tips are to choose specific words; add details like time, dates & facts. Additional tips would be to be respectful; add specific examples; summarize what you heard and make sure your body language and tone of voice match what you are trying to convey. For example, don’t say, “I would love to do that” while shaking your head “No”. Another illustration would be to say “I really am happy with what you are doing” while using an angry voice. We know what we want to say. But a common mistake that causes miscommunications is that we don’t use enough specific words, so the other person can understand exactly what we are saying. Yet, we normally assume they do. Here is another illustration to help illustrate these points:
Scenario #3: Teen tries to get Mom to understand her.
The teen is upset with Mom. Teen shares personal details about her life like problems with a boyfriend.This teen wants Mom to keep this info between them. But Mom often shares these stories with boyfriend and best friend. Teen gets angry at Mom and says, “I can never trust you.” Mom gets angry back and says, “I am the one person in this world you can trust. I have always been here for you. I have always provided you with food in your belly, clothes on your back and a clean place to live”. Miscommunication tip: In this case, the word trust is too broad. You can trust someone over many things. The teen could trust her Mom to be there for her and provide food, clothing and shelter. There was just one area that she didn’t feel she could trust her Mom and that was to keep her personal secrets between them. The teen wanted to be able to talk to her Mom about her difficulties or issues without Mom sharing them with anyone else. Instead, the teen could have tried saying, “Mom, I want to tell you about the struggles I am having with my boyfriend, but I need you to keep it just between us. Please do not tell your boyfriend, best friend or anyone else.” (Specific details and examples) I want to be able to trust you to keep my personal issues private” (This last sentence points out what aspect of trust the teen wants from Mom). Mom could even make sure she knows what facts her daughter wants to keep private by saying, “I need you to tell me what things you do not want me to share, so I don’t misunderstand what you consider private. Please, if you don’t want me to share something, tell me that you want me to keep these details private ” ( an example of how to let Mom know this should be private and Mom showing respect to daughter). Daughter should summarize what she heard by responding, “OK, Mom. In the future, if I share with you something I want you to keep private, I will point it out to you”.
Learn from these examples to improve your Communication Methods.
I hope this scenario and the others in Part 1 gave you insight into how to change your communication wording so that you can get your exact point across. Remember to add details, specific words, respect, examples and summarize content throughout your conversations. This method will reduce the amount of miscommunication and misunderstanding in your conversations with others.
Words are only a part of communication. A good communicator must also notice their facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. For example, if your facial expression looks bored the person isn’t going to feel that you care about what they are saying. If you keep looking away or don’t look into the person’s eyes, they may think you are not paying attention. I once had a client who felt anxious looking into someone’s eyes and had to look normally off to the left. I told the person they need to share with the people close to him that he doesn’t feel comfortable looking into someone’s eyes, and this does not mean he doesn’t care. This small detail really improved the understanding he had with his friends. Finally, the tone of voice…..you can’t say “I love you” in an angry voice and expect to be believed. The other person may think…..this person is angry with me and is only saying this because they think it is what I want to hear. So become aware of your tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions to make sure they fit what you are trying to convey. These examples should help you improve your communication skills.
The six main methods of miscommunication prevention are:
Add very specific terms, include details (place, time, dates, terms, and amounts), show respect for the other person, give explicit examples of what you mean, notice your body language, so it conveys the correct message and then summarize the content of your conversation. With these new communication skills, your conversations should be clear, concise and easily understood by others.
If you would like to try a book on this subject, read Miscommunication by C. David Mortensen. For other similar articles by this author, check www.supportivetalk.com or read: Effective Communication.