Work, family, relationships - it can be a jungle out there! There are so many different personalities, backgrounds, experiences, expertise, passions, hobbies, and the list goes on. We all have our idiosyncrasies and bringing those in to the workplace or a relationship can be dynamic to navigate on a daily basis.
But what about your communication style, or your co-workers? Or your boss’s style? Or your partner’s? What about your best friend’s style? Are they all different? More than likely, yes. Getting on the same page with communication takes work. And practice. And patience. You’ve got this! Here are a few pillars of communication to implement and help you navigate all types of terrain.
Imagine you are eagerly awaiting to share your brilliant, business bustin’, money saving idea to your boss. You have a good relationship with your boss, but who doesn’t get a little nervous when proposing an idea you’ve worked so hard on for months?! Nerves can get the best of us, but you’re determined to present your idea with confidence and poise. What happens if your boss pushes back? Or your boss is not really seeing the vision? Or those butterflies in your stomach make you want to hurl? Well, I can’t help with the last one, but the other two I can show you some tricks of the trade.
Being assertive, at its core, is asking for what you want while preserving the dignity of others. Being assertive and holding your ground is key to success. Here are a few ways to be assertive:
Look directly at the person
Maintain open posture
Use “I” statements not “you” statements
Plan out and practice your approach in advance
Validate the other person
Actively listen to understand
Preparing thoroughly and rehearsing will help curb your nervousness and allow you to be confident, even if you are hesitant! Being actively engaged in the communication process is crucial. Make sure the people you are presenting your proposal to are engaged (asking questions, providing feedback, etc.) and they know that you value their opinions while also holding your ground. Confidence, persistence, and assertiveness can go a long way.
People appreciate and value authenticity. Brene Brown defines authenticity as,
“...the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen” (Brown, 2010, p 49-50).
Communication processes are not only about understanding the person you are communicating with, you must also understand your own values, goals, and desires and be true to them. Do an internal inventory of your values, beliefs, goals, and dreams. Are you being true to those as you communicate with others? It’s important to check ourselves.
Have you noticed that we are typically conditioned to avoid conflict? This tends to lead to us to becoming a chameleon, or someone who changes their stance with every other opinion or viewpoint. How exhausting! This type of behavior and communication does not allow us to be true to ourselves. Find your footing and understand your values - stick to ‘em!
We all know or have that family member or friend that has their idea of how things should be done. They may not have a filter and they may be very vocal about how much they disagree with you. We love them, and it can get tricky to navigate those relationships. Developing deep, meaningful relationships is not just about communicating your ideas effectively. It requires you to be open-minded and consider other people's ideas, even if you initially don't agree or ever will.
Improvement and growth requires change in some way, and being open to your friends' and family's point of view on certain issues opens you up for refinement. It also lets your friends and family know that you care about their opinion, deepening and enriching your personal relationships and making them far more meaningful.
Communication is not just about what you intended your message to be, it's about what your audience hears. Making sure your message is clear is incredibly important in all of your professional and personal interactions. Without clarity, your friends will receive mixed messages, or your family will have trouble understanding what you actually need from them.
Do you truly understand what you are trying to convey? Think through what you are going to say a few times with a few iterations of your message and try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Clear, concise communication helps your message be received and understood. Be sure to ask the person you're speaking with if that made sense, or to repeat what you said in their own words to insure your message was understood.
Mastering these four concepts will enrich your communication abilities with your friends, family, and colleagues. All of these pillars take practice and determination as well as finding the right resources for you.