There are 10 tips to effective communication.
First, you should maintain eye contact. Maintaining eye contact helps both participants in a conversation pay attention to each other.
Second, listen with patience. Don’t interrupt. Communication runs in two directions. Often times we are thinking about what we want to say instead of focusing on what the other person is trying to say.
Use “I” statements. The whole purpose of communicating with someone is for them to hear what you have to say. If they feel attacked and become defensive they won’t hear you. Start off your sentence with “I feel…”. For example, “I feel concerned when you leave the house and go for a drive when you are angry.” If you were to say, “You make me so angry when you go for a drive when you are angry,” the person will only get defensive, and the conversation will be over.
Also, pay careful attention to your body language. Body language speaks volumes. If you are happy but your arms are crossed, it sends a conflicting message. When we stand with our arms crossed, our bodies are giving the message that we are not happy and feel the need to protect ourselves.
Don’t yell. It’s ok to be angry and to express that you feel angry, but yelling at someone will only cause that person to be on the defensive and shut down.
Show that you are paying attention by nodding, smiling, or making positive responses to what the person is saying.
Remember to be brief, direct, and to the point. Say what you feel and mean – dancing around the issue is just confusing and frustrating.
Clarify what the person is saying by asking questions and paraphrasing what they said. Wait until the other person is done speaking before you ask questions.
In conversation, set aside enough time to make sure you can finish without being interrupted. With busy schedules, you might even need to schedule a time to talk.
And finally, put away all electronics and don’t pick them up until you are done talking. Picking-up your cell phone to check a text sends the clear message that you are not listening and you don’t care.
LAP offers free, confidential counseling. Jim Quinn, LAP Director, can be reached at (443) 703-3041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lisa Caplan, Program Counselor, can be reached at (443) 703-3042 or email@example.com.
Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, CAC, is Program Counselor for the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program.