“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
Using these tools for Self-Awareness Building
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is reflecting upon our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how our communication and conflict management skills and how they impact the relationships in our lives. Understanding our capability to actively listen, how we express ourselves and our ideas, how we frame our intent and purposes, and how we present ourselves non-verbally can provide insight into the success and failure of friendships or romantic relationships, as well as the depth of connection we have with our family or coworkers.
The frameworks and tools in this chapter allow for us to consider and understand:
- what type of listener you are
- what style of listening do you use most regularly
- what barriers to listening do you experience
- how you express yourself and your story (i-statements or you-statements)
- how effective you are at asking questions
- how you frame your conversations and your ability to reframe a conversation when necessary
- how you communicate nonverbally and it’s impact on your relationships
Once we understand ourselves in these ways we can ask ourselves the hard questions, where am I successful in utilizing these tools and where can I improve? Taking an honest inventory of our communication and conflict management skills allows us to accurately identify what we should keep doing and what we should stop doing. Things to consider in this reflection process:
- ask for feedback about your skills from someone you trust
- think about successful relationships you have and consider what makes them so great – do more of that
- think about unsuccessful relationships you have and consider what makes them not so great – do less of that
- consider your role models, or people that have positively impacted you in your life, how do they communicate and manage conflict, this could provide interesting insight into areas to improve yourself
From these reflections, pick 1 or 2 small things that you want to work on to either continue doing, potentially with more frequency or that you want to improve. As the saying goes, you can’t boil the ocean. You also can’t change everything about your communication and conflict management styles at one time. Often 1 or 2 changes is plenty for the brain to work on. Commit to yourself when and where you will try to improve and set a time to check back in with yourself to reflect on how the change is going.
Using these tools for Other Awareness Building
Once we understand ourself, we can move into the utilization of these skills to understand others. You can consider:
- what type of listener are they
- what style of listening do you think they have
- what barriers to listening do you see or experience when talking to them
- how you they express themselves and their story (i-statements or you-statements)
- do they ask you questions and are they effective
- do they frame or reframe a conversation when necessary
- what they communicate nonverbally and it’s impact on you
You can combine your question asking and your listening skills to really dig into understanding others and their skills. You can watch for nonverbal cues and work towards utilizing the empathetic listening style to understand the perspective of another person.
Using these tools for Relationship Building
After you understand yourself and others in these frameworks, you can start analyzing where some of these ideas can cause conflict and move towards managing these differences in a productive manner. For example –
You are a time-oriented listener and your best friend is a people-oriented listener. Your friend wants to focus on your feelings and needs and you are just looking to get to the point as quickly as possible. This is a very common difference.
The strange and interesting thing here is that in this dynamic, you could have a primary conflict (lets say you and your best friend are in a conflict about how to spend the up coming weekend) and now you also have a secondary conflict, that comes from the difference in the way you want to address the primary conflict. Often times the primary conflict and secondary conflict become inseparable. Listening for these kinds of differences helps us disentangle the primary conflict from the secondary conflicts. Once we recognize them we can use our framing and reframing skills to manage these differences directly. For example:
Reframe – “I think we are approaching this conversation differently. (I-Statement) It sounds like focusing on the task and solving this problem quickly is important to you (Reflection) and for me I want to make sure we address our feelings and the impact of this situation on our friendship (Frame). Are you okay with addressing both side of this situation knowing we both want a positive solution in this situation?” (Clarifying question)
We build relationships by putting these tools together. Listening is the foundation, expressing ourselves through I-Statements, asking questions to understand and clarify, and framing and reframing the conflict and why it is important allows us to really connect with the people around us, through empathy and understanding, and build relationships with mutual respect and purpose.