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by S.A. Prince
“I don’t know what I want.”
“That looks tacky.”
“Are we really going to do this today?”
“Why does the house look like this? Did you not do one thing I asked of you?”
NONE OF THE ABOVE STATEMENTS ARE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO COMMUNICATE.
Those messages are incomplete or contaminated, and can easily be misconstrued. Proper communication isn’t taught, but it needs to be. Typically our communication habits are learned from observing our parents or others. It’s not what they say, but what they do, that we learn. We soak it all in like a sponge, learning our communication habits through implication.
My mother and father made proper communication a priority in our household. There would be times when my siblings and I incompletely expressed our emotions, and my parents wouldn’t let it slide. They would stay on our case until we talked everything through. Effective expression was a priority for my parents, and as a result it became a cornerstone behavior for my siblings and me.
Even then, the learning process wasn’t complete. There are psychologists and anthropologists who have studied effective communication, and their work needs to be read and applied. Often I find myself reading books on communication to further what my mother and father taught.
There are unfortunately two things wrong with communication as it relates to most people.
- They don’t think they have a communication problem
- They aren’t willing to do the research [hard work] and learn how to be an effective communication.
It’s tough to look at yourself in the mirror and admit you have a communication issue. Self-awareness is an important step, but from there we must continue to grow. One of the books I constantly ready to “freshen-up” my communication habits is, “How to Communicate: The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Personal and Professional Relationships.”
The following is a snippet. Purchase the book in its entirety here to continue learning about effective communication.
In “How to Communicate” the authors spend a lot of time talking about expression. Expressing ourselves is how we communicate with one another. When these expressions are whole, we send a complete and clear message, and when they are not whole, we send a partial or contaminated message like those above.
Expressions can be broken down into four parts:
- Observation- based solely on fact, these are the things we see.
- Thoughts- YOUR opinion, values, or theory.
- Feelings- How did what you observe make YOU feel?
- Need- As a result of how you feel, based off the fact you observed, and what you think, what is you NEED, WANT, OR DESIRE to happen next?
All four of these elements are needed in your expressions for them to be whole. Here are some examples:
- Hey John, I saw that the house wasn’t clean when I got back from out of town (observation). I thought we had an understanding before I left that these things would be done before I got back (thoughts). Not seeing the house clean has me agitated (feelings). Next time we make a plan, I need you to do your best to follow through (needs).
- “Why ain’t this house clean?” –this expression is contaminated. Is the question legit? Are you mad and blowing off steam? What are you thinking? The message here is not clear. Please remember, nobody can read your mind.
- Hey John, I saw that the house wasn’t clean when I got back from out of town (observation). I thought we had an understanding before I left that these things would be done before I got back (thoughts). – this expression is incomplete. It’s missing feelings and It’s important that how you feel and what you need are clear, so the message isn’t misconstrued.
- Getting mad and not saying anything.
Now that I’ve shown you how, go out and practice giving whole expressions today! Not only will your relationships improve, but you’ll feel better too.
- Both men and women are equally terrible communicators. If you and your significant other follow the above principles in dealing with one another, you’ll hedge off your arguments. Why lose the person you love, because you fail to effectively communicate? Do yourself a favor. Use the four methods of expression.
- Buy the book. There’s a lot more in there to learn.