children talking with cans on string

Have you ever fallen into the pit of communication challenges? Or should I say miscommunication challenges? What an interesting phenomena it can be, if and when you have the detachment to notice you are in the pit and are able to name it as interesting!

More often it is experienced as a quagmire, an endless spiral into the depths of frustration and at times hopelessness.

Here are a few tips to reduce communication challenges, or at least to catch yourself when falling into the miscommunication pit.

1. First, tell the person you’d like to talk.  Ask if now is a good time, or set up a time that isn’t rushed to have a chat. Don’t just launch into your frustration or complaint without the agreement of the other person.

2. Begin your interaction by bringing forth good will. Start by letting them know your big picture intention.  Hopefully, you want to work through the current issue to improve the relationship, or to expand the feelings of closeness between you.  Say something like, “I’m bringing this up because I really care about you and would like to get closer.”

3. Agree together that one person will be the speaker and one will be the listener. And that you will switch back and forth so each will have a chance to speak and be heard. Structured interactions help everyone when tension or emotions are high.

4.  Speaker, take your side fully…by that I mean say all you need and want to say.

5. Listener tell the speaker what you’ve heard them say. This is an incredibly important step as most of us crave being heard and understood. (Tip for the listener: you can ask the speaker to speak a bit at a time, if too much information or communication feels overwhelming.)

5. In addition, express back to the speaker what you’ve heard, and venture a guess as to how the speaker is feeling. Remember the speaker is vulnerable, sharing them self deeply.  This calls for a feeling response from the listener. Not just the “I heard you say…” responses. Both what was said and the feeling of the speaker are very important reflections that let the speaker know they have been heard.

6. Then switch. Speaker become listener, listener become speaker.

7.  Keep going until you feel a shift in the atmosphere between the two of you.  Even if it is subtle, note the change and appreciate what you both contributed.

I know the pit can feel bottomless but there really is hope! Practicing this method for processing difficult conversations can strengthen your communication skills.  For resources for effective dialogue, click here.