Life means relationships and relationships require communication. We communicate all the time- at home, at workplace, in the play fields, in the market. Communicating effectively is a skill which is essential for success in life and in career. It is identified by WHO and UNESCO as an important Life Skill to be taught to students in schools and colleges. It is part of SEL (Social and Emotional Learning). What makes communication effective? Baat kaise karein ki baat ban jaye?
Non- Verbal Communication
Even though, both speaking and listening are involved in communication, communication can also be non-verbal. We communicate and give messages through our physical posture, our body language, our eye contact, our gestures, our tone of voice. Researchers say that as much as 80 percent of our communication is non-verbal. Those who give attention to the non-verbal cues and messages of others and are aware of their own body language, are at an advantage. Giving attention to our body language helps us in our growth. If we give attention to our non-verbal messages, we can eliminate those signs of weaknesses which convey low self confidence, fears and insecurities, hesitations and indecisions while communicating. These things can easily leak from our bodies and put us into a position of disadvantage.
Listening properly is a difficult art and skill to learn in modern times. Most of us listen partially- we listen only that which interests us. We judge what is being said. We immediately agree or disagree with the speaker. All these things disrupt total listening. Active listening involves:
*Giving total attention to the speaker without interfering or interjecting.
*Suspending biases and prejudices and judgements temporarily- listening without agreeing or disagreeing
*Giving verbal and non-verbal signals and cues to show attention by saying: “ok”, “yeah”. “uh huh”, “hmmm” etc.
*Paraphrasing- repeating politely in our own words what has been said to convey that the essence and the perspective of the speaker has been understood clearly. Examples: “It sounds like what you mean is ……. Is that so?” or “So what happened was …… Is that correct?”
*Reflecting- Calmly and politely show that you understand the speaker’s feeling and reflect that by saying:
*It sounds like you feel ……….” (frustrated, angry, disappointed, annoyed etc.)
* I can see that you are feeling ……..because …….”
*Clarifying questions- asking open-ended questions to clarify what the speaker said or to elicit more information.
Apply Speech Filters
Most of us speak impulsively whatever comes to our minds- without thinking, without bothering about the consequences. This may result in unnecessary conflicts in relationships and negative appraisal at workplace. We indulge in banal gossip and help in spreading fake news and distorted accounts of events often resulting in rumors. Wise people speak less and, therefore, avoid many unnecessary complications in life.
It is good to apply Socrates’ Triple
Filter Test before
Truth and Accuracy- Be sure that what is being said is true and accurate.
Necessity- Speak only when it is essential and necessary. Unnecessary banter is not only wastage of time and energy, but can sometimes put us into trouble.
Consequences- Stop and think before speaking. Think about the consequences. Words which hurt or insult others are better avoided.
As Buddha says: “Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace”
When challenged or criticized, most of us have a predictable, fixed way of dealing. We either avoid or become aggressive. We fight or flight.
*Avoidance: Not able to face unpleasantness, many people start avoiding people and situations. When forced, they compromise or surrender easily. Others start taking them for granted and bully them and impose their own agenda on them. Such people lack self esteem and don’t stand for themselves. They don’t have any opinion and agree with everything and everybody.
*Aggressive: Another common way of handling challenges is by counterattacking aggressively. Such people never appreciate others’ perspective and start fighting. They defend their own point of view and beliefs endlessly- even if they are wrong. They attack and insult others. Such people are not able to keep intimate relationships. They repel people.
Above two styles are inbuilt into us by evolution. These are natural reactions learnt in hostile natural conditions over thousands of years. Conditions have now changed and we have moved away from jungles to a civilized world. These styles are no longer necessary and are in fact maladaptive. Both affect us adversely- one affects our mental health and the other our relationships. Right approach is to stop and be calm and think and then communicate assertively which is neither fighting nor escaping and avoiding.
*Assertiveness: Assertiveness is a higher order communication skill and is the right way of coping. It arises from the life position “I’m OK-You’re OK”. It requires respect for self and respect for others. It involves:
Stating your position and your point of view calmly and firmly.
Learning to say “NO” and “I DISAGREE”- politely and respectfully, but firmly.
When bullied or insulted or criticized unfairly, state your feelings clearly by saying: “I felt ……….(insulted, hurt, frustrated etc.) when you (said/ did) …………”. Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
Talk about issues rather than about people. No cheap personal attacks please.
Appreciate others’ position, concerns and perspectives and convey clearly that you want to know more about that.
Learn to stop and be calm and regulate your emotions rather than reacting impulsively.
Learning to communicate effectively means a different way of living- a road less travelled. It requires hard work- active listening, mindfulness of our coping styles, mindfulness of our body language, mindfulness of our speech, mindful living.