What might be the purpose of a communication strategy? Well, if we look back at our definition of communication, we’ll remember that communication is the sending and receiving messages. Notice that this definition says nothing about the successful sending and receiving of messages. Let’s remember the reason why we communicate. We do so to obtain what we need or desire. If your communication is perfectly acceptable to your desired standards, if you are getting everything you need and want from everyone with whom you interact, then what use have you for a communication strategy? If, however, you are not some super-human anomaly, then you may need, at some time in the future – maybe even right now – some communication strategies to help you get what you need in a particular situation. Maybe it’s some information from a touchy individual, maybe you’ve got a relationship that needs some openness and sharing, maybe you need some peace and harmony with a co-worker or a boss. Let’s see what we can do about that.
Effective Communication Strategies
The most successful strategies for communicating effective revolve around one thing: empathy. Think about this for a second. When you are communicating, or attempting to receive or send a message to someone, you are dealing with another person; another person who, despite any personality, or physical, or gender differences, has more traits in common with you than not. You both have feelings, and aspirations. You both have a desire for peace at some deep level (at a very deep level for some of us). You both want something or need something from each other. If that’s the case, then you, the Master Communicator, must empathize. You must consider your colleague in this communicative quest.
Stop, Look & Listen
Here’s a good place to start. Stop the judgments and the mental madness that is going on in your head. Release the blame (or guilt) you may be holding and try to focus on the situation. If you are in the middle of the situation, look at the person. What are they communicating that they are not actually saying with their words. Don’t judge! Don’t blame, don’t call them on anything. Just observe. Finally, listen to what they are saying. Really give your partner all of your attention. Try to discern what it is that they want. (Click here for our article on The Art of Listening for more information on how to be a great listener that people like talking to.)
If you haven’t read Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (or if you haven’t read it in the last 20 years), I suggest you immediately click on the image of the book to the left there, get your copy and go through it. Its mastery still echoes over time. I defer at this point to Mr. Covey’s 5th habit: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Listen to what the other person is saying. Really listen. Repeat back what they are saying to affirm that you really are listening. “What I’m hearing you say is that you’re upset because I keep leaving the vegetable drawer open.” (A real-life example there!) Stay calm. Breathe. You may want to blame and judge and yell, and your partner may be doing so, but it won’t help the situation for you to match that level. Make sure you’re asking questions about what you don’t understand; however, do not ask a question like begins like this: “Why can’t you…?” or “Why don’t you…?” These are not questions. They are judgments and blame and they will get you nowhere.
Again I go back to Mr. Covey: Be effective, not efficient. You must actually express (or appear to express) genuine concern about the individual with whom you’re dealing. If you’re trying to just get through the situation and wrap it up, there will be no satisfactory, lasting solution. Regardless, of the positions held (if at work), the two of you are equals – you are both communicators who have individual needs that require the cooperation of the other to satisfy.
You Count Too
Though your emphasis is on the situation and on hearing and understanding the other person, you should have certain expectations about how you should be treated. The Importance of Communication is not one-sided. Your wants and needs should not take precedence over the other person’s, but they are just as important. You, as a person, should be respected as well and should be treated with respect. Your desires and your ideas are wholly worthy of respect as well, and if they are not, you need to bring up this fact.
Though the suggestions offered in this communications plan tend to lean toward personal relationships, the techniques certainly apply and will be equally effective in the workplace or outside the home. The key is to listen and to be as non-reactive as possible. You must give respect to the others involved and expect it in return. You must release judgment and blame – don’t let the ego run this show. There can be no lasting resolution, nor will there be any successful communication if you do.
Thanks for reading. I hope that you are finding articles like Communication Strategy helpful. I’d really like to hear what y’all are thinking. Please comment.