Effective communication isn’t as easy at it seems. Think about it, people have a variety of thoughts and feelings that they have to first be able to identify and sort through before they are able to find the words to accurately deliver them to another. Once people deliver the message, it is often assumed that the other person understands it the way it was intended it to be delivered. However, it is very common that the person receiving the message misunderstands it. A misinterpreted tone, body language, or sentence can lead to confusion or can trigger negative emotions for the person receiving the message. This can especially happen if a message is delivered via email, text, or over social media. Here are some communication tips that may be able to help you prevent misunderstandings.
- Identify your thoughts and feelings
It may sound simple to be able to identify your own thoughts and feelings. However, it isn’t as easy you may think it is. Developing a feelings vocabulary can be complicated in itself. I often hear people misusing the words angry and annoyed as well as other feelings words as they are incorrectly identifying what they are feeling. To help you gain a stronger feelings vocabulary, you can use the following link:
What are you currently thinking? Are you hungry or tired? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of responsibilities that need to get completed? Are you overstimulated and feeling anxious because there is a significant amount of guests at the 4th of July BBQ you are at? Whatever it is, try to identify what is going on inside of your mind.
2. Think twice, speak once
For all of the carpenters and creative people out there, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the common rule in woodworking is to measure twice and cut once. This same rule can apply to communication. Once you speak, you can’t take back your words so make sure you think about how you would like to deliver your message before you deliver it. For texts, emails, and social media posts, make sure to proofread twice before you hit send! This can limit the number of misunderstandings, conflicts, and potentially negative feelings that are produced. The most important component of effective communication is how the message is perceived by the recipient. If the perception of the message received by the recipient aligns with how the messenger intended to deliver the message, then effective communication has occurred.
3. If you are experiencing a strong emotion, walk away and calm down first
It can be extremely challenging to deliver a message if you are experiencing a strong emotion such as anger. At this point, your heart rate may be inflated and your breathing is heavy. If you try to communicate, abrasive or hurtful words may come out along with a message that isn’t correctly lining up with your true thoughts and feelings. Once this happens, there is no turning back or reversing what you say. This can lengthen the communication process as you will need to clear up the misunderstanding that you created. It can be helpful to walk away, distract yourself with calming activities and allow your heart rate and breathing to slow down again. Afterwards, it is more likely that tips 1 and 2 will be successful.
4. Utilize summarizations, clarifications, and reflections of feeling statements
Even if you are able to accurately identify your thoughts and feelings and articulate this to another after thinking twice and speaking once, misunderstandings still manage to occur. To clear up any misunderstandings that happen during a conversation, it can be helpful to use summarizations, clarifications, and reflections of feeling statements. Summarizations are self explanatory and are simply rephrasing what the other person just said. This expresses to the other person that you acknowledge what they are saying. Another strategy that can help prevent misunderstandings is to ask clarifying questions. For example, if you aren’t completely certain what the other person is saying, you can use clarifying question starters including, “So what you are saying is…?” or “Help me understand…” This can clear up any misconceptions. Lastly, the use of reflections of feelings can help you acknowledge and validate what another may be feeling. “That must make you feel frustrated” or “I can imagine you must be feeling overwhelmed” are two examples of reflections of feeling statements. These techniques show that you are trying to empathize with the other person as well as understand their point of view. For additional communication strategies, you can check out a previous blog post, “Dialogue vs. Debate” here.
We hope you had a wonderful 4th of July celebration with friends and family! Check back soon for our next blog post. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any preferences on information you would like us to share in a future blog post. Thank you for reading!