The ability to communicate well is one of the most important skills you can develop. But you have to master the way you communicate with yourself before you can master the way you communicate with other people. In other words, you can’t communicate to another person what your needs are if you don’t know what they are. You can’t just react or respond to another person out of anger or frustration. You have to know what you want if you’re going to get the other person to help you to achieve it, and vice versa.
More importantly, beyond meeting each other’s needs, both people have to realize that the way they’re feeling about something in life is based upon the meaning that both people assign to that situation. In other words, nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give to it.
Why do you communicate? Think about it. What is the purpose of communication? Very few people know the answer to that question. Most of us get caught up in a habit of doing something, and we just do it that way over and over until pretty soon, we forget why we even started, why we’re even doing it in the first place. You don’t want to go through life just reacting to people and situations out of habit. This way of communication creates pain. It hurts you, and it hurts the people around you. So stop and think: Why do you communicate?
We communicate for three reasons. First, we communicate to create a positive feeling inside ourselves or to amplify a positive feeling we’re already having, in other words, to make it even better. For example, when you’re really excited about something, why do you want to tell someone about it? Because telling someone about it makes you feel even better, doesn’t it? It expands the feeling. Usually, it makes it even stronger. That’s why you want to go out and share a feeling. The reason you want to share your feelings is to make yourself feel better.
The second reason why we communicate is to get rid of negative feelings? Because you’re hoping that after telling someone, he or she might say something back that will change how you feel. Or if you’re angry, you might think, “If I tell someone how I’m feeling, if I get this out of my system, then maybe I won’t feel bad anymore. ”
The third reason why we communicate is simple: to create a new result. We don’t like the way that something is happening. We don’t want something to happen. We want to change something. How do we get ourselves to change something? We communicate it. We communicate it to ourselves and we communicate it to other people.
Here are two important questions, Why do you want to create a new result? Why do you want to change something? The only reason you want to change something in your life is because you think if you do it, if you get something you want, or if you get someone to start cooperating, you’ll feel better. The only reason you try to create new results, to make changes, is to feel good.
Most of us don’t communicate in ways that make us or anyone else feel good. Our challenge is to learn to communicate in a way that empowers us, to enjoy our life, to take action, to make a difference. Most of us don’t communicate to ourselves in a way that makes us feel good. We beat ourselves up. Rarely does that make you change your life and do something more effectively. So first we have to learn how to communicate to ourselves more effectively. Then we can communicate better to other people. But we have to understand that our goal is to make ourselves feel good.
If we’re going to communicate well with other people, we have to realize that we can’t do it by making them wrong, by attacking them, or by telling them how many mistakes they’ve made. We have to make sure that we communicate in a way that creates change but that we do it in a way that feels good to the other person as well. Not only in the short term but also in the long term.
If you want to communicate well, there are some core beliefs that you need to have about people. If you have these beliefs, you’ll interpret people’s behaviors in such a way that you won’t judge people, you won’t hold a reality that’s so different from them that you can’t have any rapport.
Here’s the first belief that you need to operate from if you want to build quality communication. “People are not their behaviors. ” If someone does something, it isn’t necessarily who that person is or what he or she is all about. All of us have done something and later said, “I can’t believe I said that or did that. ” We’ve all done something and been embarrassed about it later. We’ve all treated a person in a certain way and then said, “That’s not really me. That’s not what I’m about. ” The reality is that your weren’t being yourself in that moment. You’re not you’re behavior.
You can look at a person and say, “I don’t like that behavior. ” But if you attack a person, you have a problem, because usually we all respond to attacks by striking back with an attack of our own. We defend or we deny, or we push back even harder than did the person who pushed us.
If someone does something that appears to be vicious, the first thing you should do is to use a softer word to describe the act. Instead of the word “vicious, " use the word “unkind" to describe the act. Keep in mind that because the act was unkind, it doesn’t mean he or she is an unkind person. That doesn’t mean you should make excuses for that person or let him or her continue to do it, but you don’t want to judge someone. Judging someone destroys communication. It breaks down the lines of communication. No one wants to be judged, least of all you.
Always follow the golden rule, “treat people the way you want to be treated. ” Give people the benefit of the doubt, and know that if they did something that appears to be selfish, it doesn’t mean they’re selfish. Don’t generalize about people, or your communication will be destroyed.
Another important core belief that you must possess for good communication is: People are always doing the best they can with the resources they have. For example, if the person in front of you is not doing his or her job and keeps making mistakes and you’re really upset, you need to stop and say, “This person is doing the best he or she can with the resources he or she has. He or she is not an unremorseful person; he or she is probably in an unremorseful state. ” It will help you to remember that what you need to do is help this person change his or her state of mind instead of being judgmental.
You have to always remember that there are always two sides to every situation. When you start to feel really righteous, like you’re really judging someone, like he or she is really making a lot of mistakes and you’re doing all the right things, remember that there are always two sides. There’s another view to this no matter how strongly you feel.
Perhaps the most important core belief you must master in communication is: Knowing that the response you get from someone is always either a loving response or a cry for help. For example, when people are angry, they’re not really angry. Rather, they have a sense of hurt, and they feel hurt because they have a sense of loss. You must realize that when someone yells or is upset or is frustrated, he or she is really saying, “I’m frustrated, I’m upset, I’m hurt, or I need some help. ” If we hear that, if we really see that someone is crying for help, and that he or she is not angry with us, that he or she is only upset inside, we can communicate back the him or her in a way that’s more empowering. We won’t take it personally. If you don’t take things personally, you’re less likely to counterattack.
If you want communication to work for a lifetime, you have to decide who are the people around you who really care about you, who really are committed to you, and to whom you’re really committed to in turn, and never question their intent. You can question their behavior. You can say, “This didn’t feel good to me. ” But you can’t question their intent, because if you say, “I think you did this just to hurt me, ” that’s when you start wounding people in a way that they may never forget.
The truth is that we can forget anything. If we can forget where we put our keys, we certainly can forget anything. But the bottom line is that most people don’t try to forget. What most people do is try to hang on to things and feel bad about them for a long time. If you want communication to work for a lifetime never give people ammunition to do that in a way that hurts you and hurts your relationship.
Copyright© 2005 by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. He is the founder and CEO of JLM & Associates, a consulting and training organization, specializing in personal and business development. Through his seminars and lectures, Joe Love addresses thousands of men and women each year, including the executives and staffs of many of America’s largest corporations, on the subjects of leadership, self-esteem, goals, achievement, and success psychology.
Reach Joe at: email@example.com
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