In the last few years, basic business communications skills have deteriorated. Email, texting, and conference calls have taken the place of in-person meetings, which makes it hard to connect on a personal level. Hiding behind a screen or monitor makes it difficult to read tone and body language – and challenging to respond.
Without developing emotional intelligence and resilience, it becomes all too easy to avoid difficult or time-sensitive conversations. Struggling with interpersonal communication can lead to miscommunication and misinterpreting one’s intent. This can lead to a host of problems including intolerance, lack of trust, mental health issues, employee disengagement, and divorce.
According to Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global, two thirds of employees in the U.S. feel disengaged in their work. Lack of connection with peers and staff can have a strong negative contribution to this.
Expanding your capacity to perceive and understand the emotions of others, and manage your own emotions and response, can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your relationships. By being mindful and making time for meaningful conversations with others, you’ll have fewer misunderstandings and more peace in your life – both at home and at work.
Here are 6 simple ways to help you improve your communication and relationships:
- Speak Clearly
In his classic book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz describes the first agreement as the most important. The agreement is “Be Impeccable with Your Word.” While this seems fairly straightforward, it can actually be quite challenging to follow.
Think of the times you’ve used harsh words in your communication. When you judge or blame others and they feel criticized, they act in defense and counterattack. Rather than saying commanding statements such as “You did…” or “You are…”, phrases such as “Could it be…”, “This is what I’m hearing…” and “I’m wondering if…” allow more room for discussion. The more we directly connect our feelings to our needs, the easier it is for others to respond openly and compassionately with their own.
Take responsibility with your words. Words are powerful; use them carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Don’t hide your intent in layers of unnecessary verbiage. Be clear in your objectives, and let your words follow.
Do you judge people and situations without thinking? Pause and assess your thoughts and actions when engaging with others. Perhaps you have some sort of embedded negativity or prejudice that’s shaping your beliefs about another person. Keeping an open mind and being open to different situations and viewpoints will help you see the world in a more positive, expansive light.
- Challenge Yourself
Do you hold back in meetings or in conversations? Try offering more input, or pick up the phone to make a call instead of hiding behind email. You might be surprised by how much you can accomplish in one call, instead of a never-ending string of email. If you find in-person communication difficult, it often helps to have a script: jot down a few notes of key points and questions you’d like to cover.
- Active Listening
“There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” – Simon Sinek
When you really listen to what someone is saying, instead of planning your own response, conversations become more productive. Try being more engaged in conversations and reply to what’s actually being said (and refer back to your notes if need be); this will naturally make your listener more engaged in you.
- Ask Questions
People with an open mind tend to be naturally curious and want to learn. Being open and inquisitive will lead to questions you’d like to ask. This adds a natural flow to the conversation and keeps everyone engaged as well.
- Put Down Your Device
Quit hiding behind your screens and engage in real conversations. With authentic conversations IRL, you’ll be able to pick up on tone, intent, facial expressions, and all the little nuances you’d otherwise miss through texting and email. Don’t be tempted to check your phone during a conversation; this is rude and dismissive. The exception to this would be if you’re expecting a call; if so, be sure to let the person know you may have to take it.
Emotional intelligence can take time to develop. Be mindful in your actions, clear in your intent, and actively listen in your conversations, and better communications and relationships will surely follow.