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“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

How we talk and how we listen are always important, but when the pressure is on, this becomes even more important. During a stressful time, misunderstandings occur more easily and sometimes add more stress or pressure to the situation. At times like this, it is helpful to re-evaluate how we communicate.

Whether we are communicating with our spouses, family members, colleagues or business associates, the three principles for effective communication are speaking carefully, listening effectively and responding accurately. Here are the specific ways to minimise a misunderstanding:

SPEAK CAREFULLY:

Be specific:
Even the best of listeners are not mind readers. Specifically explain the problem. It is highly unlikely that others will know what we want or feel if we leave them guessing.

Stay focused:
Keep to the topic. Don’t bring up old issues and get sidetracked, this is irritating and confusing. Most importantly: don’t say things you don’t mean and threaten things you won’t carry out.

Say it with tact:
Keep comments expressive rather than critical, blaming or all-knowing. Avoid criticism and sarcasm. “I” statements are less threatening to the listener.

LISTEN ATTENTIVELY:

Listen with compassion:
Try and understand the other person’s perspective and try to put yourself in their shoes. It is not necessary to agree with their point of view to understand or empathise with it.

Listen without interrupting:
It is necessary to stop talking in order for you to properly listen and to hear all the words. Concentrate on the words and eliminate both mental and physical distractions.

Receive criticism positively:
Filter all emotional grounds from the facts.

Accept what is said without giving advice:
At times, we can feel or believe that the speaker is wrong, and we would like to offer our advice or tell them what to do. It is best to first listen and to let feelings be heard before responding or offering advice.

RESPOND ACCURATELY:

Get all the facts:
Listen carefully until you understand what is being said. Ask the speaker to clarify anything that you don’t understand. On the other hand, don’t ask too many questions as it can become distracting.

Check your interpretations:
The ultimate goal of communication is understanding. Listeners interpret what is being said. Check with the speaker to be sure what you heard is what was meant. Use questions such as “Do I understand correctly if you say…?” or “Just to clarify, did you mean…?”

Be honest:
Remain honest by saying, “I understand why you feel that way.” Acknowledging the speaker’s feelings doesn’t mean you agree with them.

Listen to yourself:
A snappy response will put others on the defence. Make an effort to listen to yourself while responding. What is your tone of voice? Do you have a positive or negative attitude? All these can lead to defensive responses.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

Since people play an enormous role in anyone’s life, your entire life will go much smoother if you take the time to improve the way you connect with others by developing better communication skills. Before long, you’ll find it easy to connect with just about anyone in any situation. This ability will open up an abundance of new opportunities that would not have been available to you otherwise. That’s the power of effective communication skills.

Until next week,
Stay stress-free,

Author’s note:

All information in this blog was researched for this blog, and is not intended for self-diagnosis or to be used as medical advice. All medical questions should be directed to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or pharmacist.

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