By Lori Radun
From the moment we are brought into this world, communication is a part of our life. Communication is our primary means of connecting with other human beings. If communication were just about learning the language of our origin, it might be easy, but it is so much more than words. That is why communicating in relationships can be so complex and sometimes so difficult to master. Communicating effectively takes a lot of practice, but fortunately, it's something that can be learned if you understand the key ingredients.
I like to use the acronym C.O.N.N.E.C.T. to highlight the seven keys to effective communication because one of the main purposes of communicating is to connect with another individual. If you aren't communicating effectively, the conversation and the relationship will disconnect. If you use the following key ingredients, your success in communication will greatly improve.
- C is for Clarity
How many times have your communications gone awry because of a lack of clarity? It is a good idea to be crystal clear when you communicate with someone. It is also helpful to ask the person to interpret what they heard. Everyone has a filter in their brains in which all information passes through. What you intend to communicate can in truth be received in a completely different way. What someone communicates to you can also be misunderstood by you. Everyone thinks differently and attaches different meanings to words so be absolutely positive that you understand one another.
- O is for Openness
I am a firm believer in being direct, open and honest with people because it develops trust in a relationship. Sometimes people think they are being kind by being dishonest or indirect, but people can sense dishonesty. As long as you communicate with kindness, openness is always the healthier alternative.
Being indirect with people is confusing. The person you are trying to communicate with is left to try and figure out what you mean and exactly what you are trying to communicate. There should be no guessing games in communication because people can and will guess wrong. Sometimes it can be scary to be honest and direct with people but with practice, it gets much easier.
- N is for Non-Verbal Communication
How do you feel when people cross their arms in front of their body or roll their eyes when you are talking to them? What are you thinking when someone can't keep her eyes focused on you while you are speaking? We communicate in more ways that just our words. We use our tone, our bodies, silence, gestures and other ways to communicate messages, consciously or not. People can express anger, happiness, interest, lack of interest, boredom, confusion and other feelings without using a single word.
- N is for iNtuitive Listening
Listening is probably the hardest aspect of communication to master. We are good at talking and sharing our feelings, ideas and thoughts. And then when it comes time to listen to the other person, we get distracted because we are thinking about what we want to say next. Some people are better than others at listening, but truly listening is something we all struggle with at times.
There are two key components of listening. The first is learning to acknowledge and validate the other person. When someone is speaking to us, they want to feel heard. They want to know you understand what they are saying and that you care about their feelings. The best way to demonstrate this understanding and concern is to acknowledge and validate.
The second component of listening is learning to listen on a deep level to what another person is saying. Intuitive listening is about hearing more than just the words another person is saying. It's about tapping into the deeper meaning underneath the words. Listening deeply is about sensing the emotions the person is feeling and even hearing what is not necessarily being expressed. When we take the time to deeply listen to another human being, we can connect to their heart and soul. And connecting to someone on a heart level is an amazing gift you can offer another individual.
- E is for Energy
There is energy in our words, in our tone, and in our body language. Take for instance a motivational speaker. A motivational speaker usually has dynamic energy, uses empowering words and is normally quite animated in his body language. What is the effect of a motivational speaker on the average person? They normally leave the presentation in a good mood, feeling positive and on top of the world. That is because his high energy was transferred to the audience members.
Pay attention to the energy of other people when they are communicating to you. How do they make you feel? Are you excited about listening or do you want to get away from them? Our energy originates from the thoughts we are having prior to us communicating. If we are thinking positively, we will emanate positive energy. If we are having victim or angry thoughts, that energy will be communicated as well.
- C is for Confidence
It takes hard work to be a confident communicator, but the rewards are well worth the effort. A confident communicator is respected and listened to. She speaks with self-assurance and carries herself with dignity. A confident communicator feels good about the choice of words she uses and the way in which she presents herself to others. She respects her listeners because she respects herself.
Confidence comes from believing in you. You must believe that your ideas, thoughts and feelings are just as important as anyone else's. Fear is the number one thing that gets in the way of communicating with confidence. You may have a fear of disapproval - maybe you believe your listener will disapprove of what you have to say. You could have a fear of making a mistake; perhaps you're afraid of saying the wrong thing or using a poor choice of words. It's possible you have a fear of rejection; maybe your listener will have a negative reaction to what you communicate. Prepare yourself by practicing what you want to say. The more you practice effective communication, the better you will become, and the more confident you will feel.
- T is for Timing
The best time to communicate is not always the moment you have a thought or feeling. The best communicators are reflective before they speak. They evaluate their own mood and the other person's mood before they decide when to communicate. A good communicator looks at how much time it will take to effectively communicate their message and she plans for the appropriate amount of time. To evaluate the timing, you must look at when is the best time for all parties to talk. Everyone's schedule and priorities are different and we should respect that what may be a good time for us may not be a good time for someone else. And remember, sometimes never is the best time to communicate. Some things are better left unsaid.
The purpose of communication is to C.O.N.N.E.C.T. with another individual or a group of people. If you don't connect, your listeners will not hear you or respect you. They will not be motivated to respond positively to your message. Human beings need connection and how we communicate greatly affects our ability to connect and feel like our listeners are connected to us.
Lori Radun, CEC is a certified life coach for moms.