This technique isn't just for mental health therapist or teachers of young children. It's the greatest single key to accurate communication. Listening actively forces you to truly pay attention to the communication, and is a great way to allow the other person to feel heard (and really be heard) when you disagree about the issue being discussed.
2. Assertively check your negative perceptions. If you have the impression, based on something said or unsaid, that someone is upset with you or thinks ill of you ––ASK!
This takes guts, but most often you will learn this wasn't their intention at all, and you can give up speculating or fretting about what a person ”really thought” or meant. If the person does have negative feelings about you, at least now the issues are out in the open and you can discuss them!
3. Make time to communicate. Most of us are so scheduled that we need to regularly set aside specific times for meaningful communication with colleagues.
It also helps to to take advantage of every method of communication available to you in the technological smorgasbord of life today: voice mail, E–mail, fax, or even leaving a clarifying notes for colleagues where they are sure to find them.
4. Be curious to hear a different point of view. This is a good way to push the ego concerns out of the way and aviod feeling competitive about which of you is ”right”.
The famous psychologist Albert Ellis says we upset ourselves needlessly when we demand that we be perfect or that others approve of us, when we demand others behave or believe as we think they should, or when we demand the world be different than it is.
Communication is always smoother when we accept that we are all fallible humans, that it's acceptable (though often not desirable) to be disapproved of by significant others, and that the world operates according to the laws of nature (which we won't change no matter how much we'd like to).
5. Know that disagreement is ”normal”: Look for common ground. Honest communication always eventually involves disagreeing on issues. This is normal. It's actually positive, because it offers opportunitites to view issues in new ways. It's helpful to notice and point out areas where there is agreement before working to resolve the disagreement.
6. Compliment. Take time to notice the virtues in other's opinions. When you're in total disagreement, you can still express appreciation for the other spending time and energy seriously thinking through the issue or for having the courage to disagree.
7. Know that ”We're all doing the best we can at this moment in time.” No matter how dysfunctional or illogical a behavior or communication style seems, it is perceived as need–satisfying to the person performing the behavior. It makes sense to them, based on their history and coping skill habits.
8. Apply your knowledge of personality styles and ways to best communicate with those different from you. The best way to communicate with Samantha may be the worst way to get ideas across to Harriet.
It also helps to match the other person's speed of speech and mirror their body language; something many of us do automatically.
9. Ask others for feedback. This can be scary, but asking those close to you for tips on improving your communication skills can be enlightening. Be ready for suggestions. If you react defensively, this technique backfires!
We all can improve our skills, since there is no such thing as a perfect human communicator. Don't ask for feedback unless you are ready to listen quietly and seriousl consider all suggestions. If you hear yourself justifiying your communication behaviors, STOP and thank the person for taking the risk of sharing their perceptions with you. You don't have to agree with them, but when you ask for feedback, you need to listen to it!
10. Laugh. Don't take yourself or life too seriously. When we stand back and get our life in perspective, we are more relaxed and effective communicators. Being able to laugh at yourself and your situation is a wonderful skill!