I’m going to be telling you about some “tricks” you can use to communicate clearly with anyone.
I call them tricks because most people don’t know about them
and because they often work so powerfully
that they seem to give you an unfair advantage.
But the first thing to learn about clear communication is that
being tricky in the dishonest sense will always backfire on you!
Actually, when conversations get difficult, we do tend to get at least a little bit tricky.
Consciously or subconsciously, we try to change the subject.
The tricks I will be telling you about will help you to
recognize and deal effectively with these attempts to change the subject.
(I’ll be using a couple in my examples, but these same principles apply in all communication.)
Always take the time to decide your own purpose.
“What do I want to get out of this conversation? What is my goal?”
If the communication is important to you at all, you do have a purpose.
But that purpose needs to be in the front of your mind
for you to have any chance of getting what you want.
He: “Let’s go for a ride today.”
She: “I’d rather stay home.”
If they keep the conversation at this level, they might talk in circles for hours.
But if each person keeps their own purpose in mind, things can clear up quickly.
Maybe he wants to go for a ride so he can end up at the electronics store.
Maybe she wants to stay home because she wants to make love.
If they each know their own purpose
they might end up making some beautiful music together!
(Sorry. Just couldn’t resist!)
When communication gets difficult, it’s because the topic keeps getting changed.
He: “Let’s go for a ride today.”
She: “You never want to stay home.”
She is trying to change the topic from
whether they will go for a ride
to whether he ever wants to stay home.
If he falls for this change of subject, he might say:
“I do too! We stayed home all last week!”
But if he remembers his own topic he’ll say something like:
“I’m talking about today. Let’s talk about that first.”
And if she remembers both her purpose and her topic she might say:
“OK. But let’s make love first, then we can talk about that.”
[…But sometimes nonverbal communication is best…]
Many people don’t like the word “cooperate.”
They immediately think it means losing!
What cooperation really means is
finding a way for both people to get what they want
instead of having one person win while the other loses.
In our example, both people could get what they want
if they’d simply decide which person’s desire to fulfill first.
There is communication, and there is “meta-communication.”
Meta-communication means “talking about the talking.”
When things aren’t going well
take a few steps backwards in your mind,
notice the way you are communicating with each other,
and then comment on it.
When she said: “You never want to stay home.”
He could have said: “You are trying to change the subject.”
Or he could have said: “I’m talking about today and you want to talk about what ‘never’ happens.”
Or: “When you talk about ‘nevers’ I think you want to argue.”
Each of these statements show “meta-communication.”
Of course, meta-communication is actually a way of changing the topic.
But it is often the best new topic to bring up
when communication is already going poorly.
Even if this conflict isn’t resolved,
learning how you communicate
can resolve future conflicts before they begin!
Don’t talk up to someone, as if they are better than you.
Don’t talk down to someone, as if you are better than them.
You are equals.
Here are some “sideways” statements our couple could have made:
“Which thing should we do first?”
“I really want to take that drive. How much do you want to stay home?”
“How can we both get what we want today?”
[…Now would be the best time to read Clear Communication #2…]