Five steps to mastering the art of communication

Communication is a work of art.

And your ability to communicate will sit somewhere between the ranking of a Picasso and something from the Museum of Bad Art.  Check it out here – http://www.museumofbadart.org/

I didn’t know it existed either – and it is pretty bad.

Communication is an ability – it is something that is learned and can be developed.  With practice.  We use it all the time with varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness.  I’ve written a few blog posts recently about interviewing.  The main skill in interviewing is communication.

Our lives revolve around relationships – the main skill in relationships is verbal communication.

I write for business owners – the main skill in business is communication. Once you start to develop this skill, the benefits of effective business communication become more and more clear.

Verbal communication is the cornerstone of our lives.  Often it is the ability to communicate that differentiates those who achieve greatness in life and business and those who do not.

I know that before I put effort into improving my ability to communicate I lost friends, girlfriends, and business opportunities.  Once I put my attention on it, and got some results based coaching and training (check out our website for more information) – things really changed for me.

I used to struggle to have the tough conversations.  I would avoid them (like sacking someone who deserved it, or telling my girlfriend that I thought she was being ridiculous) because I didn’t want to upset them.  I didn’t want to deal with their reaction to what I wanted to say.  So I didn’t say it.

Or the other thing that would happen would be that I would say or ask something, and without my intending to do it, the statement or question would have a tone on it that was unintentional – and it would cause a reaction.  Let me give you an example. Say this out loud to yourself:

I said pig not fig.

Now just check in with the tone you said it with.  How would your partner react to your tone?  Did it come across with the ‘you stupid eff-ing a-hole tone?  You know, the one that often results in someone asking you why your knickers are in a knot?

Or was it neutral?  Even?  Non-emotional?  Not Charged?

Chances are it wasn’t neutral and this happens all the time.  It creates upsets when we didn’t intend to.  The real problem is we didn’t use enough intention in order to ensure an upset didn’t occur.

Here are my top five steps to improve your artwork (I mean communication ability):

  1. Attention: Often people talk about the importance of listening in communication.  Really, listening is about giving your complete thoughtful attention to what someone else is saying.  This is one that I used to screw up royally.  When my wife was my girlfriend, there was a time when she would say to me ‘So, just havin’ a quiet day today hey?’  What she was really saying was ‘Where are you? ‘coz you’re attention is not here with me.’  That nearly cost me my relationship.  Thankfully, she’s a stayer, and she’s now my wife.  I can promise you that everything I’m sharing in this post and others are all things that contributed to our relationship growing to be what it is today.

  2. Intention:  Intention is about having a purpose or a design.  A plan even.  It’s about being intentional.  When you ask a question, is your tone intended?  When you say ‘I love you’, or ‘You did a great job’ is there intention behind it?  Or is it just another thing you say that has no real meaning?  Intention is much more than words – it’s where your actions demonstrate that your words are true.  And sometimes those actions are invisible.  Intention is what ensures your communication travels the distance and arrives at the person you meant it to.  The person you intended it to.  Communication without intention is either meaningless or dangerous.

  3. Awareness:  When you are communicating with someone, how aware are you of whether or not their attention is present with you?  Are you using your awareness to be an observer of yourself?  Are you aware of your own emotional reactions and responses?  Being aware while communicating goes hand it hand with attention and intention.  In fact, awareness, attention and intention are all invisible muscles.  You can build them and make them stronger.  If you don’t use them, they atrophy.

  4. Neutral Tone:  This is a huge skill in question asking.  And I’m definitely not perfect at it.  I used the example earlier when saying ‘I said pig, not fig.’  Now lets look at when you ask a question.  I’d like you to ask (and do it aloud) ‘Why did you do that?’  and now in the comments section below see if you can use your awareness to describe the tone that came out.  Was it neutral or was it accusatory?  Or was it whiney or whingey?  It can be challenging to make a statement or ask a question in a neutral tone, especially when there is a bit of emotion involved in the conversation.  Learning to use a neutral tone and developing the skill to use it intentionally with awareness is one the most important skills I’ve developed in my life.  Amongst other things, it saved my relationship which has turned into a rewarding marriage.

  5. Ask Questions:  Assumptions kill the best of intentions.  I’ve written a blog post about How To Deliberately Grow Any Relationship.  If you haven’t read it, make sure you do.  It’s fundamental to this step.  One of the keys in that equation is Communication.  The thing is, if you are constantly telling someone – you will never understand their point of view.  And they will never feel like you care.  And the great thing about questions is that there is no such thing as a bad question.  When you get good at clarifying what someone means when they say something (see My Favourite Question) you are really going to clear up a ton of mis-understoods in your relationships.  If there is a mis-understood, there is a drop in understanding.  If you’ve read the blog post you’ll understand.  🙂

Till next time.

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