Top Tips for Effective Communication

So, I’ve said this a lot of times now. Don’t try and change anyone else. Don’t give advice or make suggestions without being asked. The reaction I get most often is, “What? So I can never tell my partner, mother, coworker (insert person who is annoying you here) anything I’d like done differently?”

Yes, you can definitely say things you’d like him or her to work on, but there are some guidelines you’ll need to follow if you want that person to actually listen and (gasp!) maybe even make the changes you’re asking for.

Let me first ask you to keep any suggestions to a minimum. As a matter of fact, unless it’s a really big deal, I would say to let it go. Your man is leaving dirty socks on the floor? Let it go or hire a maid. Your father is chewing with his mouth open when he eats? Look the other way or only eat soup when you’re together. Don’t let every little thing bother you. This is about you, not the other person. If there’s a bigger thing (you just found out your fiancé charged $10,000 on the credit card for the wedding without telling you), then you should definitely have a chat.

If you want a healthy outcome, stick to these guidelines:

  1. First things first. The focus should not be on changing the other person. Instead, you want to focus on being as loving, kind and compassionate as possible while improving your communication.
  2. Be very careful of your timing. You can almost never give feedback or comments when you really want to. Everyone is usually too reactive, defensive, or angry when something has “just happened.” Often, just waiting until the timing is better (e.g., after sex, food, a good night’s sleep or just a couple hours of cooling off), you will get dramatically better results.
  3. Watch your tone. Start with a loving intention before you open your mouth. Think in your head about how much you love or at least care about this person and have a goal that you’ll both feel clear and satisfied after this discussion. This will help your tone and the words you use. Never be scolding, condescending or mean. As you might have already noticed, waiting for a good time to talk (Tip #2) will naturally help your tone.
  4. Be in the “here and now” and self-aware when you have your talk. Notice if the other person is being resistant, angry, frustrated or defensive. If any of these attitudes show up, switch your tone and think about your words. Remember, the goal is to be heard so if the other person is angry or defensive, they’re not listening anyway.
  5. Make sure that you both agree on definitions and meanings regarding what you’re talking about. You’ll be shocked to find out that your definition of “cheating” is different than your partner’s or that you mean different things when you say the word “listen.” Be specific. Ask things like, “What did you hear me say?” or “What do you think “debt” means? Again, you might be very surprised by the answers.
Kate Rufener