Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Effective Communication Isn't Easy

Written by Ms.Berman
Dedicated to my inspiration, Lizzy.  
Communication:  no one said that it is supposed to be easy.  Many people consider themselves to be adept at this skill.  If a person is forthright with her/his feelings and is clear on his/her thoughts , does this ensure that they will be communicated effectively?  The answer lies in point of view.  It is not only the intent of the message that is essential, but how it is perceived.  Taking the time to check for clarity and understanding isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us. 
Point of view and misinterpretation, however, are at the core of many conflicts between individuals and groups of people, and should be considered when tension arises.  Unnecessary angst and hurt feelings often crop up from a mere misunderstanding of the meaning behind a particular statement.  Being that it isn’t realistic to check the intent behind every statement that may come off as offensive, here are some life rules to help you navigate when communicating.
1.   Understand that people’s behavior, including their verbal communication, is primarily a reflection upon them, and to a small percentage, a reflection upon you.  As human beings, we tend to personalize every situation to be about us.  In reality, a person’s words and actions normally represent what it going on in their world, not yours.  When someone is hurtful towards you, think of yourself like a mirror… and let it bounce back toward them.  You don’t need to be rude.  However, no one can make you feel badly about yourself without your permission.
2.   Remember that you cannot control another person’s words or actions.  The only thing that you can control is you, and how you react to him/her.  You’re best off remaining as least reactive as possible.  People tend to say and do more outrageous behaviors to others whom they can elicit the greatest responses from.  Neutral reactors are of no value to attention seekers and will no longer be their target.
3.   Set a time limit as to how long you will dwell over your missteps.  We all say and do things that we regret.  Share your regrets, either verbally with a trusted friend or in writing by journaling, but then after an allotted time period, move on.  You cannot change the error, and wasted energy worrying about such a mistake detracts from a more productive use of your personal resources.
4.   Establish a “no guilt” policy.  If you ask someone a question, they should be able to answer honestly, without feeling guilty, even if it is not the answer that they know you would prefer to hear.  This may take some practice, but becomes easier over time, and makes for a more honest and meaningful relationship.
5.   Establish a “don’t fester” policy.  If someone is saying things that are hurtful to you, tell them at the moment it is occurring.  Chances are some of these messages are subject to interpretation and aren’t coming off in the way in which they were meant to.  The speaker and recipient may be on completely different pages.  Letting things fester makes for further misinterpretation and a build-up of bad will.  Oftentimes this leads to an outburst of angry comments when these hurt feelings are finally communicated. 
Feelings are complicated, and manifest on multiple levels.  Communication requires patience, diligence, humility and, most important, a desire to connect with your loved ones in an honest and meaningful manner.  The human connection, the ultimate result, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Effective communication, as with most things that provide the greatest of rewards, is rarely going to be easy.

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