The “Communicate Fairly” Rules


I put communication under the idea of relationships because communication takes two people. One person starts the conversation and another person receives it. However, there are a million things that can go wrong in that simple formula, in both personal and business communication.

For example, the person sending the communication doesn’t really like the person on the other end. The person receiving the communication is not paying attention and doesn’t really want to get the communication he or she is being given. The list goes on and on.

In any communication situation, you are both the sender and the receiver, and when you’re communicating fairly, you expect certain things to happen as you play both roles. To help you communicate fairly, I’ve put together a list of my favorite communication rules to help you play, or communicate, fairly. Here they are:
1)  Pay attention to what people are saying to you. It’s not enough just to listen when people are talking. You need to pay particular attention to the nonverbal elements in speech, such as body language, hand gestures, vocal tone, and emotional state.

Actively read their demeanor and listen to their responses. Try to ascertain if they, in fact, are being straightforward and truthful in their conversation as opposed to just saying what they think you want to hear.

2)  Speak for comfort. If you use words that are too big for the topic, spew out too much information, talk too fast, or fail to articulate effectively, you will lose the attention of the listener. The best form of communication is crisp and clear.
3)  When you talk to people, really take the time to listen and get what they’re trying to say to you. Most communication books will tell you that listening is something of a lost art. Nevertheless, fair communication means you listen to what’s being said to you. People love being heard.

a.  How do you listen effectively? First, you acknowledge when someone is speaking to you. Have you ever known someone who just talks and talks? I have, and I found that if I acknowledge them by saying simple things like, “I got it,” or “I understand,” or even, “I heard you,” it lets them know that I really did hear what they were saying. This doesn’t mean that you agree with them; it just means that you have heard what they said.

b.  Another great listening technique is to ask questions. I talk about that in the next rule, but just know that the process of asking questions demonstrates that you are listening and interested in the person you are speaking with, which reinforces that relationship. The more you focus on listening, the better you will get at it.

4)  Ask questions. Asking skillful questions is an amazing and effective communication tool. By asking for information, you effectively eliminate the opportunity of assumption or speculation on your part, while you learn the truth about what others are thinking and feeling.

a. Ask at least one direct and relevant question before voicing your opinion. This opens up discussion and removes the risk of people feeling that you are trying to force your attitude or opinion on them. Take note of how people respond, both verbally and through body language, to what you have to say.

b. Ask questions that effectively deal with any preconceived assumptions you may have.  Keep asking questions until the answers received leave you considering the facts only.

c. Be polite and open. Encourage discussion and promote understanding and interest.  Be careful not to appear to be too forceful. Be aware of your voice, body language, and choice of words.

5)  Decide if it’s worth the fight. Take the temperature of the person you are about to talk to. Is the person in a good mood and comfortable? It may be better to postpone serious discussion if the timing is bad.

a.  Use your abilities to shift feelings positively.  Ask thoughtful questions, show respect for others, boost morale, encourage involvement, and reduce stress.

b.  Sometimes people have intense feelings that may predate their current relationship. If they have sensitive or anxiety-driven feelings, you can develop nurturing regimes and interests that do not demand so much from them. By allowing others to answer questions, you allow them to stay in charge of themselves even when you are guiding them. They can face the mirror instead of defending themselves. This is necessary and especially potent with people who harbor memories of abuse. They develop self-preserving mechanisms to protect themselves and may find it difficult to open up and communicate comfortably.

c.  Sometimes people have strong attitudes that need to be reworked. If you come across as being too aggressive, demanding, or offensive, you can force others to shut down. For example, if you use expressions that demand change, your words may pack an additional punch that could be perceived as an attack. For example, when someone says, “If you had done your work earlier…I would have made my deadline,” they imply that it’s your fault that they didn’t make their deadline.

At this point, the hair stands up on your neck because you are angered by the perceived accusation and you feel that you are being manipulated into believing that you are in some way at fault.

By reworking attitudes, we can be more direct and effective in our style. Perhaps a new approach such as, “It would really help if you could get your portion of the project done by this date so that we can all make our deadline,” would be a little more effective and a lot less antagonistic.

6)  Sometimes you have to let others win. We human beings are funny creatures. We like to be right, so much so that we’ll sometimes go to great lengths to be right about things. However, being right to the point of making someone else wrong doesn’t foster good communication.

Sometimes the power you relinquish by letting someone else be right can open up the conversation so that you can learn more about what others think and feel. Try to set the tone by being blatantly honest and letting down your guard. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of trust and openness.

a.  Think about what changes you can make in your approach to take pressure off a topic of contention. Try looking at the issues that cause aggravation for those people with whom you have to work. Sometimes a simple change in time schedules that reduces the urgency to get things done can reduce pressure in such a way as to reduce the stress in the relationship.  Whenever you take the initiative to calm things down, you let others chill out and regroup. You can endeavor to let them have the upper hand and regain perspective.

b.  Keep in mind also that no one is perfect. Sometimes willingness to accept another person’s shortcomings is a more powerful move toward resolution than talking about those shortcomings will ever be. Actions speak louder than words.

7)  If something is important to you, discuss it face to face. This is the #1 problem in business. People like to hide behind e-mail and texting, and the phone is always a convenient way not to talk face to face with someone. Don’t hide. If a situation or relationship is important to you, meet the person involved and discuss things until there is resolution. You may discover a completely new perspective on the situation at hand when you physically see how others react to what is being discussed.
8)  If you find that you are endlessly caught in the same argument, act. This means act first, and communicate later. Find the solution, fix the problem first, and then discuss why it happened after the fact, with the sole intent of ensuring that it never happens again.
9)  Know that asking is more effective than telling. Nobody likes being lectured. You can be much more effective in finding solutions if you ask probing questions and allow others to find their own solutions by thinking things through.
10)  Get to the root of the problem. Big issues sometimes evolve from oversights that stem from your inability or even refusal to be aware. Problems don’t fix themselves, and they can escalate if unaddressed. Work toward gaining understanding of the situation—communicate, and resolve.
11)  Be aware and beware. Be aware of unsolicited denials. If someone is going out of his way to deny something, he just
may be guilty. This is your heads up to beware.
12)  Challenge yourself to ask more questions when interacting with others. You will improve your overall communication skills, strengthen your relationships, and reduce misinterpretations. Record the facts on a notepad. What pieces of real information have you gained through your conversations? This encourages you to eliminate assumptions, which in turn reinforces a fusion of understanding and accountability. You need to ask for information, confirm, and clarify that you
have interpreted it correctly, and then, if any action is required, ensure that everyone is clear about what needs to be done and by whom.
Ultimately, good communicators make time to effectively and openly acknowledge the good in others. They praise, compliment, and encourage others to feel good about themselves.
In the event of a communication breakdown, decide whether you will dwell in the negative or rise above the angst and turmoil in a firm, positive manner and encourage all parties to listen and be heard.

About Lorii Myers

39 Time Award Winning Author
This entry was posted in Empowerment. Bookmark the permalink.

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