Healthy Conversation Habits

There is a lot of talking going on these days, but far less communication. If we are to succeed in business and relationships it is important to learn how to talk to one another. Remembering the following habits can help.

The Conversation Habits that break down communication

The Fake Listener: They show all the signs of listening, eye contact, nodding, making the right noises, but they are not hearing a thing that is being said. 

The Interrupter:  They are always planning their response. They tend to make statements, rather than ask questions to clarify what the person is trying to say. They often jump in before the other has finished speaking. 

The Intellectual: They react to the logic behind what someone is saying, rather than respond to the emotional intent of the speaker.

The ‘It’s about me’ after all:  They are looking for an opportunity to change the focus of the conversation to them.  

The Lawyer:  They listen defensively, ready to rebut what the other is saying.  They take delight in proving the other person wrong.

The Problem Solver:  They jump in with the quick solution to a problem rather than listening carefully to the other persons’ concerns.

Ouch! If you found yourself in those descriptions, don’t dismay.  The secret to overcoming the bad habits is to cultivate the good.

The Conversation Habits that enhance communication

Relax, breathe evenly and listen carefully. 

If something is said, that gets your emotional radar beeping, don’t let that throw you. Instead, listen. Try to understand the other person's position.

Ask questions. 

Always begin a response with something positive or an acknowledgement from the conversation or message. Now move to your response of agreement or disagreement. In some cases, it may be to discuss a statement and agree to disagree.

Stay focused on the moment. This is not the time to bring up offenses from the past. That will only cloud the issue and make a peaceful resolution less likely.

Respond to criticism with an openness to learn. Sometimes correction is not rejection, it is direction. When we take it too personally, we miss the opportunity to gain insight into how our words and actions are affecting others.

Even if the criticism is unfair, respond with empathy. It’s important to listen for the other person’s pain and seek to understand their feelings.

Admit you are wrong – when you are.  It diffuses the situation, sets a good example, and shows maturity. It also often inspires the other person to respond in kind, leading you both closer to mutual understanding and a solution.

Use “I” statements. “I understand how you feel. I feel frustrated when this happens.” Remember that the radar in their head is scanning for threats. When you say things like, “YOU MESSED UP.” This elevates the other person’s stress hormones and gets them in fight or flight mode.  “I” statements defuse the threat.

Change the scene: Sometimes, just moving into another room or taking a walk together can have a calming effecting on raw emotions.

Don't fold your arms. This is a closed posture and communicates you are in a defensive mode.

Don't point. Pointing can be perceived as accusation.

Take time to cool off:  If you feel yourself or the person you are speaking with is starting to become too emotionally driven to be constructive, it’s okay to take a break from the discussion until you both cool off. Sometimes good communication means knowing when to take a break.

Remember the goal is not winning. The goal is understanding. Instead of trying to ‘win’ the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody’s needs.

Don’t give up:  If you both approach the situation with a willingness to see the other’s point of view and find a solution, you can make progress and break the cycle of conflict. Unless it’s time to give up on the relationship, don’t give up on communication.