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How to Make Sure that Your Conversations Communicate Successfully

How to Make Sure that Your Conversations Communicate Successfully

People sure love to talk, but what they don’t love so much is to converse; to dialog; to actually communicate. Folks are mesmerized by the sound of their own voices, and they like to interrupt and talk over each other. If they are polite, they may merely wait for their turn to talk, but talking becomes the only objective.

What about you? Are your dialogues merely parallel monologues?

Granted, it takes two to tango: if your fellow conversationalist is solely interested in telling things to you or saying things at you, you may have your work cut out for you to have an actual conversation. How can you make it happen?

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communicate successfully

    The Power of Questions

    Questions are powerful because they can be used to guide a conversation. When you ask someone a question, it initiates two beneficial things: first, it signals to them that you want to hear what they have to say, and second, it reminds you that you have to actually listen. After all, you’re the one who asked.

    For questions to create true dialog, you have to have your intent in the right place. If you really don’t care what their answer is, the question will be neutered: if you are busy thinking about what you will say next (even if it is to formulate another question) instead of caring about their response, the power is sapped away. It’s when you honestly have the objective of understanding their viewpoint and position that you open the door to actual interaction.

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    I Tried Listening Once, but It Was Hard

    Listening without preconditions is a habit that is not instinctual—It must be formed. If you are only listening so as to refute their statements or to redirect the flow, you miss out on a powerful part of conversation.

    Like many worthwhile habits, listening might be hard at the beginning. You will likely have to exercise some self-control, and you might have to remind yourself of your objective to interact. Like anything else, however, if you just commit to some consistency in listening, it will become easier and easier until it is natural for you.

    Hey, I’m the Only One Listening Around Here!

    Having honed your listening skills, you have passed the first hurdle of successful communication and people will no doubt enjoy talking to you more. Everyone loves to be heard, but you are still seeking that elusive two-way conversation where you not only hear but are heard as well. How do you get the other party to listen? People are quite enamored with their self-interest, so if you want someone to do something, make it in their best interest to do it. In this instance, you want them to reciprocate and listen to you, so how do you make it worth their while?

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    Let’s start by considering what doesn’t work. It doesn’t work to try to tell them what their interests are or, worse yet, should be. Back when you were asking questions and listening to their answers (remember that part?), you had the opportunity to uncover what they considered to be valuable. This is no time to make judgments about their choices—just hear what is shared, and build on that. Think about it: don’t you want to hear about things that interest you, support your beliefs, or offer potential benefits? We humans are all the same in this regard—acknowledge their desires, and they will follow you where you lead.

    Start by building on that which is familiar and desirable to them. Next, introduce something new and interesting; something that takes them to a new and better place, but keep in mind that “better” has to be better in their eyes, not just yours.

    Bit by Bit, Bite by Bite

    The process of listening and being heard cycles over and over again in successful conversations; it layers and builds. Don’t try to take on too much in one cycle or demand too much of the other person when you want your “turn”, as an ongoing exchange is the easiest path. You’ll soon find yourself engaged in listening, and enticing them to listen. Information is being exchanged and viewpoints are being expanded: you’re communicating!

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    Once you start having actual conversations you will wonder why you ever settled for just talking at people rather than with them. You will find that others are moved and so are you; the richness of life deepens and a broader world expands before us. I’m glad we had this little chat. Aren’t you?

    Where have your conversations resulted in true communication? Tell us by commenting below.

    Featured photo credit:  Grooming Green Wing Macaw and Blue Gold Macaw Close Up via Shutterstock

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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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