*Don’t strive to make the other person wrong. The first rule of respectful communication is to avoid accusatory language. When we set out to criticize or make another person wrong, we erect a wall that prevents meaningful communication. By listening to a different point of view we invariably learn something new.
*Listen carefully, avoid making assumptions. There is a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. God wanted us to listen twice as much as we talk. When we really listen, we have a chance to hear what the other person is actually saying. When we half listen, our understanding is based primarily on assumptions. Listening is an art, one that takes a great deal of practice to master. Throughout history, the great communicators have been excellent listeners.
*Ask questions to gain clarity. As a personal development writer, I am often approached by family or friends regarding articles I have written. Often, they believe my article is directed toward them. First, if the shoe fits wear it, second, I write about the human condition and draw my material from an array of life encounters and experiences. I often weave examples from the past with experiences in the present. I do this to paint a picture for my readers. Rather than assume things, we are always better served to ask questions in order to gain clarity.
*Seek to understand the other person’s perspective. As the late author, Stephen Covey wrote in his international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek to understand, then to be understood”. When we strive to understand why someone feels a certain way or holds a specific belief, we open a door to respectful, effective communication. Recently I asked a client why he felt the need to hold such a tight rein on his teenage daughter. As an outsider looking in, it seemed like he was obsessed with keeping her from participating in what I would deem “normal childhood experiences”. “When I was 16 years old, my 12 year old sister was abducted and raped by a neighbor. I vowed that I would never let that happen to my children. Maybe I have taken it to the extreme but I just want to keep her safe”. Because I sought to understand his reasoning, I had a much better understanding of where he was coming from and how he viewed the world around him. Seek to understand!