How to Communicate Effectively


The way we communicate with each other can either make or break a relationship. Good intentions can quickly turn into arguments when we use inappropriate words or communication styles. Certain trigger phrases can cause the recipient to shut down. Guidelines are needed when we discuss unresolved, volatile topics.

Words or phrases that quickly halt conversations are called roadblocks. There are three different types of roadblocks. The first minimizes difficulty by offering solutions. While these solutions are well-meaning, they’re not received in the same manner. Examples include:

  • Ordering: you have to…
  • Preaching: you should…
  • Lecturing: the fact is…

The next group of roadblocks focus on pointing out faults in an effort to help. These include:

  • Judging: you are a big procrastinator…
  • Criticizing: you’re being lazy…
  • Analyzing: you’re just trying to…

The third group attempts to make one feel better. These include phrases like:

  • Praising: you’re smart…
  • Excusing: it’s not so bad…
  • Sympathizing: I have felt…

These are typically misconstrued as patronizing statements, rather than well-intentioned phrases.

The most commonly use roadblocks are prying and questioning phrases. These are your why, what, how and when questions. “Why did you wait so long to ask for help?”

Conflict management skills may be helpful with these kinds of conversations. To be productive, we must allow one person to talk while the other listens. This gives the first person the chance to completely express the conflict while the second person demonstrates respect through attentive listening.
After establishing the roles, you must determine the real issue. Oftentimes, the first topic is not the real issue. Next, distinguish between positions and interest. Try not to focus on what you think the other person is trying to accomplish. Make sure you’re respectful by talking softly and not hitting below the belt.

Both verbal and nonverbal communication are important factors for a positive outcome. Conflict resolution focuses on both the present and the future. You must be able to accept that conflict resolution doesn’t always work. Establish a system to stop the conversation should things escalate or become unproductive.

Listening is by far the most important communication skill to have. Good listening requires that you stay engaged and are truly hearing the other person’s feelings. It shows that you care about your partner’s thoughts and feelings. Listening, without becoming defensive, encourages open and honest communication. Good listening is paying attention to voice changes, expressions and gestures and maintaining eye contact.

Not only will improving your communication skills enrich your relationship, it will make life more rewarding overall as well.


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