Part of the “Go Long” lifestyle involves connecting with others within your community. You can strengthen relationships with friends, family, and colleagues by practicing these five communication strategies.
Psychologist Anne Hanley says, “I’ve always been struck by the emphasis we put on speech while we offer no courses on listening skills, which is as equally important when it comes to good communication. Active listening lets the other person know that we are aware of what they said … it’s a feedback loop that says ‘I heard you.’ ”
Active listening is especially beneficial during conflicts. It involves fully listening to the other person rather than planning your response, and then saying back to the person what you understood they said.
“Most people think that any message beginning with an ‘I’ statement rather than ‘you’ qualifies as an ‘I message.’ Not so!” Dr. Hanley explains. “‘I messages’ have to do with my careful choice of words, the tone of my voice, even my facial expression and nonverbal cues. There’s a three-part formula, and the key is to be neutral in conveying how that person’s behavior affected me without adding blame. ‘I messages’ take practice.”
Learn the three components of an effective ‘I message’ here.
Making Eye Contact
“Good communication means facing the person and looking at them while they are speaking. While this may seem like common sense, think of how often we get distracted in our conversations and turn to the computer screen, the TV or the cell phone,” Dr. Hanley says. “Whether we intend it or not, the speaker clearly feels dismissed.”
“Seventy-five percent of communication is nonverbal,” Dr. Hanley explains. “That means we have to pay attention to much more than the words we hear. Notice, for example, how children have this amazing ability to read the cues they pick up from facial expressions, gestures and other body signals.”
Consider what your body language is communicating when you’re speaking with someone. For example, if you’ve tried hard not to raise your voice when a grandchild accidentally breaks something, but your arms are crossed and your brow furrowed, you are still clearly communicating anger.
“The key to avoiding this trap is to listen, listen, listen,” Dr. Hanley says. “Interrupting to offer sage advice or give solutions sends the wrong message. It’s not about you. Communication experts point out that when people have someone who really listens to them, they often find their own solutions.”
Thinking about how you communicate and making steps to communicate more effectively can improve all of your relationships.