More often than not, poor communication is cited as a reason for conflict in a relationship. Communication is an essential tool, one that conveys one’s feelings, concerns, and difficulties. Unfortunately, as humans, we are prevented from entering others’ minds due to the limitations of our disparate natures. Thus, effective communication becomes indispensable in how we express ourselves and how we are perceived and understood by others.
To communicate appropriately and avoid causing conflict, I have discovered the following ten rules to be the most effective strategies. Hopefully, you will also benefit from applying these tactics in your delivery.
1. Your feelings are your responsibility. Do not make them about the other person.
✘ You keep hurting my feelings every day through your actions.
✔ I keep getting hurt every day through your actions.
2. Do not generalize. Words like ‘no one,’ ‘anyone,’ and ‘everyone’ is best avoided.
✘ This is why nobody understands you.
✔ This is why I do not understand you.
✘ No one can put up with you as I can.
✔ I am finding it difficult to put up with you.
✘ Anyone can see that you are in the wrong!
✔ I think that you are wrong.
✘ Everyone knows how rude you are.
✔ I feel that you are quite rude.
3. Do not reach absolute conclusions.
✘ What you said is wrong.
✔ What you said may be wrong.
4. Do not assume a lack of interest from the other person.
✘ You keep ignoring everything I have to say.
✔ I have been feeling ignored lately.
5. Speak with compassion.
✘ You are too stupid to understand what I am saying. I know you will not get it, but I will tell you anyway. Are you even trying to get what I am saying?
✔ I want to start by telling you that I care about you and want to work with you to solve this issue. Please do correct me if you feel that I have said anything inaccurate.
6. Do not make assumptions about whether or not the other person has understood or listened.
✘ Do you even understand me or care about how I feel?
✔ I would appreciate it if you would be more empathetic and look at this from my perspective.
7. Do not force the other person to talk faster.
✘ Can you please hurry up and get to the point?
There is no correct way to say this. No matter what pace someone is talking at, do not ask them to go any faster. In a world where so few people express how they feel, be grateful that they are talking at all. When you tell someone to speak more quickly, they might become self-conscious or insecure, and it gives the strong impression that you are just waiting to talk and don’t care about what they have to say.
8. Do not hurt the other person’s ego.
a. Do not bring the other person’s ability to understand into question.
✘ There is no point in talking to you. Last time I explained everything to you, but you made the same mistakes again.
✔ The last time I explained this to you, I seem to have not adequately expressed myself. I hope I will be able to explain myself better this time, and that the same thing will not be repeated.
b. Putting I feel before any thought can make a world of difference.
✘ What you are saying is wrong.
✔ I feel that what you are saying is wrong.
c. Do not glorify your importance in the other person’s life.
✘ Be happy that at least I am talking to you. Nobody else would explain this to you the way I am. Without me, you would be lost.
✔ I hope that my words impact you, and I am willing to give you the time and patience needed to understand.
9. Do not be falsely apologetic.
✘ Forget it. This is my fault, and I am the one to blame. Are you happy now?
✔ I don’t feel like discussing this topic any further at the moment. Please give me some time to think about what we have spoken about.
10. Do not garble communication with emotion.
✘ I have had a bad day, and talking to you is only going to make it worse.
✔ I have had a bad day, and I am not in a position to listen with an open mind at the moment.
There may be times when you want to be harsh to communicate a specific message. Even in these circumstances, there are better ways to get the point across.
✘ You are too stupid to understand.
✔ Perhaps I am not explaining myself well enough for your understanding.
✘ You are self-righteous.
✔ You are not willing to accept your mistakes.
Note how the first examples here are an assassination of the person’s character as a whole, while the second ones imply that the mistake lies only in the given circumstance.
In all the above situations, you may notice the following two features repeating themselves.
1. You express the problem from your perspective, the only viewpoint that you can completely understand.
2. You speak with respect, compassion, and maturity.
Communication is critical in resolving conflicts. I hope that these steps help ease some of the barriers experienced in conversation. If you agree/disagree with any of these points, let me know in the comments below!