It is virtually impossible to go through a day without communication. We communicate in person, via phone, texts, email, online meetings, social media, and more. The messages can include clues such as tone, body language, facial expressions, and our perspective.
During times of chaos and uncertainty, it is even more essential that we begin our conversations with care and compassion. In stressful periods, many experience fear, worry, and anxiety. And those that have experienced trauma in their lives may be experiencing re-traumatization.
There is much potential in communication – the potential for productivity or for misunderstanding.
We can all think of a time when a conversation activated feelings of anger or frustration. Ineffective communication often drains our energy and can affect motivation, performance, quality of work, and relationships. By nature, we shift into a protective mode when we feel threatened, making us unable to hear the actual message.
The good news is that we can learn to recognize when this is happening and change the pattern by simply slowing down our breath. As we take a moment to breathe in and out at a slower pace, our brain moves from a fight, flight, or freeze response. We can then choose how we respond. We can share how we feel, ask questions for clarification, and embody calm. When we are genuine and come to conversations with curiosity and respect, we create a coherence that leads to clarity and effectiveness in our communication.
Prepare yourself to listen
Before you begin a conversation that may create depleting emotions, consider preparing yourself by making an intention to be respectful and to listen for the real message. Before ending the conversation, confirm mutual understanding between those speaking. You can state what you heard and ask for confirmation or clarification. This extra step often serves to build trust and a foundation for future discussions.
Words are weighty
As leaders, teachers, or parents, it is essential to be aware that our words hold greater weight. For some, those words are commands and not suggestions, so being careful with our word choices can be essential. Aim to be aware of and sensitive to the reality that our word choices can demoralize or motivate others. If you sense discord, it is an opportunity to create mutual understanding and get back into alignment with shared goals and missions.
It can be challenging to hear a message if we don’t feel listened to, valued, or appreciated. Effective communication requires a level of mutual respect and trust. Trust is critical to effective communication. If we don’t trust someone, we are often unable to hear their message.
Take a moment and recall a time when someone’s words allowed you to connect to a renewing emotion, such as confidence or appreciation. You may also remember a time when you aligned with someone and felt heard, valued, or respected.
The first memory that came to me was from a conversation many years ago with a former boss. I had implemented new systems and created new programs for the organization, but I was unsuccessful in my attempts to be promoted. One day I asked him for a moment of his time and shared with him a prototype flyer I had created with the idea to start a new marketing business.
I felt a bit threatened because I didn’t know how he would respond and if he would start looking for my replacement. Instead, he leaned back in his chair, smiled, and said, “I am very proud of you. You are finally starting to see your potential.”
I did start that marketing company and have been serving others for more than 20 years. During the lean early years, I held on to his words and determined that his belief in me was enough to keep me motivated. That conversation could not have taken place without the safe space that included trust and respect.
What can we do to find our calm so that we can listen deeply to others and not assume we know what another is thinking or feeling? so that we can share effective and powerful conversations? What can you say or ask today that will lead to better understanding, compassion, care, and improved connection?
Interested in learning more about creating sustainable change for powerful conversations for you or your organization? Schedule a complimentary conversation.
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