I Can’t Believe You Just Said That!
How To Deliver Effective Communication Without Offence
Have you ever spoken to a friend, colleague or partner with the best intentions, only for them to take offence? It can be baffling when you think what you say is harmless and it is received in a completely different way.
Communication should be simple, right?
However, the problem arises as no two conversations are the same. There are so many factors that come into play that actually makes communicating a very complex process. So, how can you ensure your communication is effective?
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is more than just speaking and listening. Effective communication allows an exchange of thoughts and ideas for a mutual understanding. This doesn’t mean someone has to agree with what you say, but that you both understand where each other is coming from.
Many of us speak without thinking which can lead to problems itself. Even if we do check back on what we say, we usually have no problem with it, after all, we know what we meant. However, you cannot get inside the other person’s head to know if they think in the same way as you. Furthermore, there are so many factors at play in communication; from the physical environment to the way a person is feeling. There will be times when you may not take offence at something one day and then be upset the next.
Do we just accept that what we say could be offensive or are there ways of increasing the chances of successful communication?
Common communication problems and how to fix them
What you say vs what they hear
In terms of communication, this happens when we deliver a message but, the listener doesn’t receive the message as they don’t know what you mean.
You say: ‘Can you pick up dinner tonight? I’m rushed off my feet’
They hear: ‘You are not as busy as me and you are not doing enough to help me.’
Of course, in most cases, the message will be understood. However, when emotions come into play, it can dramatically change what is said. The listener will filter the message through their own thoughts and feelings. If they believe you are angry, irritable or impatient, then the listener may see your seemingly neutral message as a negative.
How to overcome this
To make sure the listener actually hears what you say, a feedback loop can help. In most cases, this will not be necessary but when you are delivering a sensitive message or emotions are running high, then checking that what you say and what they hear matches up is crucial.
In most cases, it can be as simple as saying; ‘is this okay?’ or ‘do you mind?’. However, in more serious or sensitive issues it can help to ask for feedback. For example, ‘can I just check we’re on the same page, could you summarise what I said?’ You can continue with this feedback loop until you both have a mutual understanding.
Actions not words
What you say is only a small part of your communication. Nonverbal cues such as body language, the tone of voice, inflection, volume and facial expressions all come into play. Remember, what you say not only has content but feeling too.
You say: ‘I’m fine.’
They hear: ‘I am not fine. I am the complete opposite of fine’.
Nonverbal cues are actually more believable than verbal cues. If there is a mismatch between what you say and how you say it, the listener will usually focus on feelings rather than what is said. What makes this even harder is when you cannot see nonverbal cues such as over text, social media or email.
How to overcome this
Again, when it is a sensitive or serious matter, it is best to have the conversation in person so that both the speaker and listener can assess the nonverbal cues. If this is not possible, then it is important to make the message as clear as possible by bringing emotion into your voice. If you think what you say may be misinterpreted then consider whether it is worth saying at all, or perhaps it can wait until a better moment.
In a world of their own
In many cases, communication breaks down because one or more parties have divided their attention. If the speaker or listener is not committing their full attention to the conversation, they can miss the necessary nonverbal cues and make the other party feel invalidated.
You say: ‘Thanks to our new sales process, our profits have risen by 11%, the next step is to…’
They hear: ‘Should I go to the gym after work or meet my friend for a drink?’
When this happens, the listener will often assume they know the message before the person is finished. As a result, we predict what they are going to say, assess that it is not important and our minds then wander.
How to overcome this
People are so busy; it is understandable that they may switch off when you talk. To avoid poor communication, it helps to ask people when they have time for a conversation. Choosing the right time for discussions is critical. Ideally, it shouldn’t be when you are doing something else or are tired and stressed. For the listener, it is crucial to deploy effective listening skills such as making eye contact, remaining engaged and asking questions.
Are you struggling with effective communication?
If you are struggling to communicate effectively in your relationships, at work or when you are meeting new people, then a blend of therapy techniques can help to provide tthe confidenceand clarity you need to make communication as effective as possible in any situation you encounter.
Find out more about delivering your best communication by booking a free 15-minute consultation with me by calling 0207 971 7677.