We live in the Communication Age. Yet while instant communication through countless digital devices has taken over the world, it’s easy to lose some communication basics that make for “real” good interaction. Because of that, we can end up with communication misfires that escalate tension. In this post, we’ll explore 5 Tips to prevent and resolve communication conflicts.
Last week, I had several instances where my communication with others was marked with minor misunderstandings. You know, those times when you say one thing and the other person hears it completely differently. If you don’t catch these right away, or soon after, they can snowball into unintended tension and conflict. So, here are five things you can do to guard against that or to repair it when it does happen:
1. Focus 100% attention on the person you are communicating with.
Given how many ways our attention is divided these days, this one thing may be the most important. It makes such a difference to the person you are talking to if you let go of texting, or checking your email, or watching TV, or whatever is attracting your attention at the moment and are 100% present with the other person. Show that the other person is most important at this moment by giving them your full attention. There’s no greater gift you can give.
2. Listen first.
Now that you are focused on the other person, ask them a question to begin. Let go of your agenda for a moment and give priority to what they have to say. Even if this is a brief ice-breaker, it sets the stage for being listened to in return.
3. Repeat back what you heard.
To be sure you’ve understood what the other person is saying and to help them express it in more detail, feed it back to them and ask if you’ve got it right.
4. Once the other person has said what they have to say, express your side while referring to what they said.
If you’ve listened well, you’ll be able to express yourself in a way that makes sense in their context. You can do this by using some same words and by connecting what you have to say to what is important to them at the moment. This will lead to a natural flow of communication back and forth between you.
5. Be ready and willing to make repairs.
When there is misunderstanding, tension, or conflict, be ready and willing to go back and clear things up. Take it on yourself to initiate steps 1-4 again, until you’ve been able to arrive on the same page. Communication misfires are inevitable, so repairs are essential.
Now, you’ve probably heard all these steps before. I certainly didn’t make them up. They’re tried and true skills and they’re some of the communications basics that sometimes get lost in our zeal for instant response and multi-tasking. Using these basic skills make our communications technologies powerful tools that we can use to master our lives, rather than being overwhelmed and stressed by it all.