Communication is key in any relationship—with your parents, your significant other, your boss, and even your server at the table. Because if you asked for your steak done medium well and you get a slab of meat like it was fresh off the butcher’s chopping block instead, then you have a communication problem. And even if you specified it clearly enough but failed to ask nicely, then you may have something else on your plate that you aren’t aware of and don’t care to have. Here are a few reminders to help you better communicate how you want your steak done.
Join a dialogue not a monologue. Communication is about exchanging thoughts and ideas. This means that you should allow the other person time to digest what you have to say and a moment to respond back. This also means listening to the other party—and not while composing what you have to say in your head.
Keep an open mind. If you already have reservations and judgments before you start communicating, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Develop empathy to understand where the other person is coming from and to respond more effectively.
Clarify and verify. Ask questions and repeat the other person not only to clarify but also to show some interest. If you make your partner feel that what he or she has to say is important, you will get a more honest response.
Start with small talk. It helps both parties ease into the conversation. It will also help you to find common ground and a better way to state your case. By knowing the other party better before launching into a dialogue, you can tailor your message to your audience.
Be brief and specific. Small talk is one thing, but beating around the bush is another. If it’s an important matter that needs to be addressed immediately, then don’t take your time. On some occasions, it’s best to go straight to the point. If the waitress asks you how you’re doing before taking your order, then this is a cue for you to start some small talk. But if she’s in the weeds, then it’s best to just give her your order to get her on her way.
Speak clearly and cut the “ums.” The first part is self-explanatory, but “uhs,” “ums,” and “ers” can’t help you express your message effectively. It’s distracting and suggests lack of confidence. Keep track of how often you interject your sentences with these speech disfluencies. Other fillers like “like,” “so there,” “you know,” “so,” “as in,” and “super” can be like, you know, so super annoying. So there.
Think before you speak. Often, conflict arises from heated words that can’t be taken back. Don’t be pressured into giving an immediate response. Take time to think things over. In fact, if it’s a serious issue, suggest for a break to think things through and allow things to cool down before going back into the conversation. You’ll be surprised how a fresh perspective can change the course of things.
Watch your body language. Fidgeting can mean you’re nervous. Hands in the pocket or arms crossed can mean that you’re in the defensive. Relax and look the other person in the eye. Also look at your partner’s body language to take some cues on how best to handle the situation. And remember to remove distractions like chewing a gum or checking your phone. In fact, turn off your phone during the meeting.