Communication is important in the workplace, personal relationships, legal dealings and across many other aspects of our lives. Indeed, communication is key for conflict resolution and better expression of our ideas & opinions.
Much of our being and interactions are subjective and based on our interpretations of life as we experience it in that moment.
Paul Watzlawick, a communication theorist, once noted that conflict often arises from miscommunication and word choice. We are subjective beings and the messages we communicate are often misperceived by the receiver.
With the spirit of fostering smoother communications and mitigating conflict, the following are 8 tips for constructive communication:
1) Eliminate the pronoun “you” as much as possible. “You” gives statements an accusatory tone, so consider using neutral articles (ie. A, an, the, this, etc).
- Destructive words: “You should be able to understand the procedures by reading the handbook.
- Constructive words: “The procedures can be understood by reading the handbook.
2) ”If pronouns are necessary, use “we” or “our” if possible.
- Destructive words: “You are not performing effectively.”
- Constructive words: “Our team is not performing effectively.”
3) Choose you words mindfully. Word choice is very important in keeping a smooth conversation. Choosing the right wording can avoid being offensive or bossy.
- Destructive words: “Stop talking please.”
- Constructive words: “Consider what you are saying right now.”
4) Keep your voice calm. People are sensitive to sounds and tones, especially during a dispute or escalated dynamic. When communicating, keep a calm demeanor and peaceful body language, with a steady and calm voice.
5) Problem oriented, not person oriented. Focus on the problem that needs to be solved, rather than the person who is responsible for it. This can promote problem-solving and places the listener in a receptive mode.
- Person-Oriented: “You are performing poorly and are not engaged.”
- Problem-oriented: “Let’s discuss how we can increase performance & support employee engagement”
6) Be specific, not global. State topics clearly and specifically. A generalized and global topic can confuse the audience.
- Global statement: “Poor employee engagement is hurting our revenue.”
- Specific statement: “We must consider how to increase our employment engagement.
7) ”Listen; don’t assume. A good communicator is able to engage in active listening and empathic communication. Don’t assume motivations or feelings, unless they are clearly expressed.
8) Use conjunctive terminology. Always be aware of how you use disjunctive words (ie. but, just, however, etc.), because disjunctive phrases negate what you previously said. “I appreciate your efforts, but I'd like you to...” is an example of a person being praised and their praise getting negated because of “but.” Likewise, disjunctive communication can result in the other party thinking that their input is not being considered and being placed in a defensive mode.