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How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind.

How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind.

When in the midst of a discussion, all we really want is to be heard, and for our point of view to be considered. But sometimes in the heat of the moment if a conversation isn’t going our way, we can get defensive; escalating a friendly discussion into a full blown argument.

A lot of the time this happens without us even meaning to, and we lose control of the situation. We want our views to be understood. But sometimes while explaining our stance we might not realize that we are offending the other people involved in the discussion, turning it into something ugly and running away from the initial point.

Exhibition 1. Times We Mess Up in a Discussion: Workplace

The most volatile environment that this could happen is in the work place. You want to appear to be informed and articulate, so you engage with your coworkers about a politically inspired debate. This is an incredibly touchy subject regardless, so approach with caution when flinging your hard-pressed beliefs out in the open. (I don’t agree with the following example but bear with me for a moment). Say that you don’t believe that women should get equal pay in the workplace, because men have to spend more money to please their women. You could have been half-joking when you said it, but now every woman in the office probably hates you, along with many feminist empathizing men. There’s nothing wrong with shaking things up a bit, but think before you speak.

Exhibition 2. Times We Mess Up in a Discussion: Family

The same goes for friends and family. You don’t need to be as cautious because it’s not going to affect your professional career, but you also don’t want to offend those closest to you. Let’s suppose that you came from a small town, but moved to the big city to find your place in the rat race. When you return home, you view everyone as just doing the same old thing. While that may be true, be careful on how you word things if you decide to bring this up. Don’t use words like, “towny,” because now you’re offending even the people you returned home to see.

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A Careless Mistake That Escalates the Original Issue into a Huge Conflict

Now not only do you need to backtrack to get your original point across, but you have to do some damage control to alleviate the situation that is now getting blown out of proportion. The original issue is now no longer relevant, and what should have been a friendly discussion is turning into a huge mess.

When people feel that they are being attacked or judged, they will immediately become defensive and retaliate. The conversation will shift into justifications for their behavior or beliefs that they feel you have been insensitive to, and the remainder of the discussion will consist of you trying to calm them down to realize what you actually meant, and return to your initial point.

It’s not a very good look for you, coming across as judgmental and not accepting of other’s point of view. That may have not been your intent at all, but because of poor word choices, you appear to be that way. Now others are judging you for being judgmental. Exhausting, isn’t it?

Emotions are on the rise and have taken control of the situation. Now all of your efforts are directed at diffusing the situation, and you may not ever get a chance to explain yourself.

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Why Do We Sometimes Get Defensive Even Without Our Notice?

I think we all know that one person that is next to impossible to speak to, because we know that any little thing will put them on the defensive and shut you out. If you don’t know anyone like this, then maybe it’s you. But why does it happen?

1. We Do Not Feel Respected or Being Heard.

Sometimes we react impulsively, or don’t realize the weight of our words until we’ve already said them. Then the recipient of our comments doesn’t exactly take it so well, and the original point has been lost.

Example: You’re unhappy with your boyfriend because he doesn’t seem to have any time for you. You try to talk it out with him, but your first point is that he makes you feel like he doesn’t care. Now, all of his efforts have been belittled, and he feels like you don’t appreciate all that he does for you. It blows up into an argument of accusing each other of not caring, and the original issue doesn’t get resolved.

2. It Is How Our Brains Are Wired.

Our brains are hard-wired to switch gears into our Self Protective System if we feel that we are being attacked verbally, physically, or mentally. Our brains don’t only react to situations instinctively, but reasonably as well to preserve our physical and psychological well-being. What’s interesting about our self-protective systems is that they are not learned. They are genetically manufactured, along with the other facets of our DNA and personality traits. From early childhood we will exhibit this instinct to protect ourselves.

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Example: As a small child, you are trying to finish a puzzle before the end of playtime. Now the teacher is saying playtime is over, and you need to put the puzzle away even though you haven’t finished it. In your small developing mind, you feel that the teacher is undermining your ability to finish the puzzle, so you throw a temper tantrum that will nearly drive the teacher to tears.

How to Diffuse an Issue Before It Escalates

1. Mirror the other person after they speak, to let them know that you are listening.

If you’re in the workplace and your coworker suggests an action that you don’t agree with, you can respond by saying that you understand their idea to (reiteration of suggestion) although you think it might be helpful to look at it from another perspective as well, and perhaps find a solution that encompasses both.

2. Avoid using the word “but”.

The word just has a negative ring to it in the midst of a discussion. For example: “I hear what you’re saying, but-“ with just that one word, you have completely undermined the other person. By adding the word but, you are saying that what you are about to say next is more important than the point that they already made.

3. Don’t make judgments or express your emotions without explanation.

Which of these sentences sounds better to you?

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“You never take my suggestions seriously.”

“I feel frustrated because you haven’t responded to few of my previous emails, is it because you don’t find my comments to be useful?”

The first sentence is incredibly accusing, and will immediately put the recipient on the defensive. In the second example, the sender fully explains their feelings on the matter, and give the recipient a chance to explain themselves as well.

4. Invite them to give comments so they feel respected.

After voicing your opinion, ask the other person or people in the discussion to voice their opinions on the matter as well, so they know that their thoughts are valued.

Featured photo credit: criticallyrated via google.com

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, freelance writer, & plantbased food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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