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A Fatal Communication Mistake That Many Of Us Are Not Aware Of

A Fatal Communication Mistake That Many Of Us Are Not Aware Of

Good communication — sometimes, it’s the little things that make all the difference.

We all know that good communication is a bedrock of a successful relationship, whether it’s a positive parent-child bond, the first few days of a new friendship, or the start of a budding romance.

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You may think that you have the basics of good communication mastered — you listen, you share appropriately, you seek clarification on points you do not understand, you make sure that your body language fosters trust, and so forth. However, there are certain errors in communication that we may make on a regular basis without even knowing it. Taking your interpersonal connections to the next level entails becoming aware of such mistakes and taking care to avoid them.

The Danger Of Comparison

One of the most common communication pitfalls is our tendency to draw comparisons. In many situations, it is entirely appropriate to compare two or more items or situations. For instance, at work, you may describe a piece of software as being “harder to use” or “nicer to look at” than a previous version. This is fine. Such comparisons help other people. However, comparisons are not so harmless in personal relationships.

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Why? Simply put, when you make a comparison, you are making a judgement. An obvious example is the comparisons that parents sometimes make between children. We all know that hearing “Why can’t you be as smart/tidy/nice as your sister/brother?” is only going to damage a child’s self-esteem. However, it is important to watch out for so-called “good” comparisons too.

Whenever you make a judgement, someone usually comes out feeling like a loser, even if your intentions are positive. For instance, if you attempt to compliment someone by telling them that they look like a particular celebrity, you are implying that they are not an attractive person in their own right. Rather, they are only worthy of attention because they happen to resemble someone else. To take another example, let’s say that you are a piano teacher who tells one of their students, “Keep practicing, and one day you could be as good as my best student!” This may seem encouraging initially, but just as in the previous example, such a comparison detracts from the innate worth and value of whoever is subject to it.

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If You Want Someone To Change, Try A Different Strategy

Often, when we make comparisons, we secretly wish someone could or would be different. This is a losing battle because getting other people to change, especially if they do not want to change themselves, can be extremely difficult. Instead, it is often more fruitful to take one of the following two approaches.

First, the best tactic is to work on appreciating and accepting the other person for what and who they already are. This may be tricky at first, but keep reminding yourself of what you like about this person and what joy they bring to your life and you’ll be halfway there. It is better to praise and compliment someone based on who and what they are right now than to express, subtly or not, that they would be better if only they would change.

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The second strategy is to be a role model. For example, if you would like your friend to be more outgoing and to take the initiative when planning social outings, why not aim to develop these qualities in yourself? We tend to imitate those we respect, so if you have a strong relationship with someone, modelling positive behaviours can encourage positive change.

However you tackle the situation, remember to cut down on those comparisons!

More by this author

Jay Hill

Freelance Writer

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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