Nine Keys To Achieve Breakthrough Communication (Part 2)
1: A process by which information is exchanged between individuals
through a common system of symbols, signs or behavior.
2. Personal rapport (a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding,
or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.)
– Merriam Webster Dictionary
Communication Key #1: When you listen, listen with your whole being
Communication Key #2: Refrain from invalidating other’s beliefs
Communication Key #3: Criticize with the touch of a feather
Communication Key #4: Ask for what you want and need
In Part 1, I mentioned that I have identified that the majority of relationship challenges are directly related to poor communication. Communication is, unfortunately, not a class we were required to take. My intention is for you to incorporate these nine keys into your daily interactions with others and discover, for yourself, how valuable exceptional communication is.
Everyone is right from his or her point of view. You don’t have to agree but, this is a reality. However, if you want to be heard, you want to be clever in your approach to communication. Bullying, screaming or invalidating won’t accomplish the mission of achieving exceptional communication.
Communication Key #5: Communicate to others how much they are values and love
Never assume others know they are valued and loved. Everyone needs affirmation. If we don’t get it, we feel empty.
Although psychologists say we must seek validation from within rather than from others, in many cases, unless someone lets us know we are valued and loved in a language we understand, we don’t know it. So it is vitally important that you affirm your love and appreciation of others through your words, your gestures, and your actions. You should let your partner and your close friends know how valued and loved they are, and do it continuously.
Expressing your appreciation shouldn’t be limited to those closest to you. I regularly let my travel agent know how much my wife and I value him, tell our local auto mechanic how much we appreciate his excellent work, and let our favorite waiter at a local restaurant know what a good job he does. You can make someone’s day!
Communication Key #6: Let those closest to you know when you are lonely, in pain, fearful, or feel misunderstood
“Trouble is part of our life. If you don’t share it; you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.” —Dinah Shore
How can your partner, spouse, or close friend have the experience of comforting you if you don’t let them know when and why you are troubled? How can you have the satisfaction of comforting others if they don’t share their pain, sadness, or disappointment?
Many people make the mistake of assuming that sharing their painful feelings is a sign of weakness, or is the same as complaining. But there is a major difference. Complaining about your problems is often a sign of victimization. Sharing your emotions is a sign of intimacy. Sharing your emotions is healing.
Research has shown that the quality of your closest relationship is directly related to the quality of your communication skills. This does not mean that you should continually sit around and talk about your troubles. It does mean that if you and those who are close to you are willing to talk about things that really matter, and are not afraid to express what you think and feel, your relationship is likely to be considerably better. As you have probably noticed, however, most women seem to be much more open to this kind of dialogue than men.
A major grievance of many of my female coaching clients is that a friend, partner, or spouse does not share their emotional pain, fear, or troubles. And as a result they often feel ignored, left out, or not trusted. At the same time, I have also discovered that many women—out of fear of judgment, and for their own self-protection—have been forced to shut down their emotions and are accordingly unable or unwilling to share them. There are, however, several steps you can take to improve relationships with those close to you.
- Look at things from your partner’s or close friend’s point of view. You don’t need to always agree with either your partner or your friends. You should, however, take time to understand their underlying concerns. A lot of arguments stem from trying to solve problems, and there are lots of ways to do that once you know what is really at issue. As soon as you have both stated your worries and desires, it’s much easier to work together to find a satisfying solution. Being flexible is a key part of communicating well and is critical for making a relationship last.
- Develop the skill of talking about yourself. You may lack confidence in expressing your feelings, or find it difficult for some other reason to tell your partner or friend about your emotional turmoil. If so, you want to learn how to use the “I” language—that is, “I feel . . . ,” “I want . . . ,” and “I need . . . ” Doing so will help you express yourself and let those who care about you know your emotional state in a nonthreatening manner. Practice in your imagination, then mentally run through your script before you start a dialogue.
- Respect and support your partner or friend. This is a choice, an attitude, a mindset. When you make the commitment to respect others, you communicate in harmony. When you respect each other, you avoid being nasty and refrain from calling each other names or putting each other down. You are courteous, and use “excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you” as easily with those you are close to as you do with strangers.
Communication Key #7: Communicate to others how much you value the people you love
The way you speak in public about those you love, value, and respect reflects on you. Imagine yourself, for example, in this social situation. You are at a cocktail party engaged in conversation with someone you have just met. The topic of relationships comes up and, out of nowhere, the other person makes a negative comment about his or her spouse, significant other, or close friend. What would be your opinion of that individual? I always find that comments like this are immensely embarrassing, and make me question how compassionate, caring, and loving the person could be to speak of a loved one in such a way. It also makes the person look like a bit of a fool. And don’t kid yourself—people do notice.
So, never, ever communicate in a way that denigrates your partner or close friend in public. In fact, since public affirmation is one of the highest compliments you can pay to anyone, if the opportunity arises, you should speak of them in the most loving way possible. Tell a story that reflects their kindness and love. Praise their accomplishments and talents. Speak of their intelligence and acts of caring and consideration. What you say in public about others always affects how others see you.
Communication Key #8: Never threaten a relationship during a conflict
If you voice your opinion and stand up for what you believe is right, you will on occasion encounter conflict. It’s inevitable. In their book Maximum Success, James Waldroop and Timothy Butler write: “Conflict, although painful, serves a useful purpose. The clash of opposing ideas and strategies is a dynamic, creative process that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each and leads to reconciliation at a higher level.”1 In other words, you can’t cook without heat.
Conflict can, however, be dealt with in a loving manner without attacking, blaming, or attempting to instill guilt in the other individual. The important point to remember about conflict is that no matter how intense the disagreement, you should never, ever threaten the relationship.
There are always what the British call “rough patches” in all relationships. There are also always times when a partner, spouse, or coworker either intentionally or otherwise tries to wound you with words or actions. It is at times like this that you may be tempted to threaten your relationship by presenting ultimatums. If you do, however, you are playing a very dangerous game, one that could inflict a deep wound—if not an irrevocable breach—in the relationship. The major danger an ultimatum presents is that the other person may call you on it. Imagine being so filled with fear that you say, “If you don’t do what I want, I will leave,” when what you really mean is, “I feel lonely and afraid, I want to be heard, and I need validation.” But the other party, not understanding how you really feel, and responding to his or her own fear, may say, “OK. Leave.” Then what do you do?
If, however, you remember the importance of always respecting the dignity of the individual—if that value has become part of who you are— you will be able to resist attempting to control another person by threats, intimidation, ultimatums, or name-calling. And you will avoid finding yourself in a situation in which, by expressing your anger rather than your respect, you will have lost a valued partner or friend.
Communication Key #9: Show gratitude, Show appreciation, and always say “Thank you.”
Let us each give thanks for this beautiful day.
Let us give thanks for this life.
Let us give thanks for the water without which life would not be possible.
Let us give thanks for Grandmother Earth who protects and nourishes us.
You might be surprised to hear it, but showing appreciation in both your relationship with yourself and with others has been shown to positively affect the brain, attitude, performance, and even health. According to the article “Boost Your Health with a Dose of Gratitude” by Brunilda Nazario on MedicineNet.com:
Throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being. Now, through a recent movement called positive psychology, mental health professionals are taking a close look at how virtues such as gratitude can benefit our health. And they’re reaping some promising results.
In a 2012 report on some of the studies that have been done, “The Grateful Brain: The Neuroscience of Giving Thanks” in “PreFrontal Nudity,” Dr. Alex Korb discusses some of these promising results.
One study by . . . American researchers assigned young adults to keep a daily journal of things they were grateful for (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). They assigned other groups to journal about things that annoyed them, or reasons why they were better off than others. The young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups. . . .The same researchers conducted a separate study on adults, which showed that even a weekly gratitude journal was beneficial. Subjects assigned to journal weekly on gratitude showed greater improvements in optimism. . . . But that’s not all; it also influenced their behaviors. Keeping a gratitude journal also caused greater improvements in exercise patterns. Lastly, it also caused a reduction in physical ailments . . .
A third study . . . did not require a gratitude journal, but simply looked at the amount of gratitude people tended to show in their daily lives (Ng et al., 2012). In this study, a group of Chinese researchers looked at the combined effects of gratitude and sleep quality on symptoms of anxiety and depression. They found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep, and with lower anxiety and depression. . . . The wide variety of effects that gratitude can have may seem surprising, but a direct look at the brain activity during gratitude yields some insight. The final study . . . comes from the National Institutes of Health. NIH researchers examined blood flow in various brain regions while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude (Zahn et al., 2009). They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels.2
In other words, those who show gratitude also take better care of themselves and engage in more productive health behaviors. In addition, grateful people tend to be more optimistic, which has been shown to boost the immune system. Perhaps most important, focusing on gratitude can be a buffer to all the negative garbage life may thrust at you, so when you focus on being grateful, you are happier. But how do you do that? One way is to tune into your “Gratefulness Channel.”
Give yourself a great gift and begin applying these “9 Keys for Breakthrough Communication” now and you will live an exceptional life.