We do it every day, usually without giving it much thought simply because it works. But what do we do when communication isn’t working the way we want it to? Or when disagreement or conflict makes it particularly difficult? There are some simple strategies that we can all learn to use to improve communication.
- What we say and what others hear is often different: It is especially important that in stressful situations you take the time to restate what you thought you heard said so that the understanding is clear and no false assumptions are made.
- Respond, don’t react: If you are an educator and a parent raises concerns about what is happening in the classroom, you may be inclined to react defensively, but a defensive reaction does not encourage communication.
- Use “I” statements, not “you” statements: Take ownership of your feelings and views.
- Work on listening: Part of good listening is asking questions that will bring out the information you need.
- Look for common ground: Building on areas of agreement can help to bridge gaps of disagreement.
- Be aware of body language: Body language often speaks louder than words.
- No one has all the answers: Don’t expect that you always will. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” or “I will have to find that out for you.
- Acknowledge frustration, anger, or other feelings: If you don’t acknowledge obvious feelings, they become the “elephant in the room” and everyone becomes invested in avoiding the “elephant” in the room instead of concentrating on the issues that deserve attention.
- It is natural to resist change: Routines and patterns that we are used to are comforting and even though we may know changes need to be made, we may have feelings of resistance.
- Try not to take other people’s reactions personally: How other people react to you is often more about them and their feelings of fear, frustration, or insecurity than it is about you.
- We all encounter people we find difficult: You don’t have to like everyone, but you may need to learn to work cooperatively with them for the good of the child.
- Everyone has an agenda: It’s a fact, but it isn’t necessarily a negative. Our personal agendas help us put forward our goals and also serve to help us protect our own interests.
- Stay positive: We all have moments when things that are happening feel overwhelming and out of our control, but if you make an effort to keep a positive focus, you may be able to turn those feelings around and take some control back.
- Get to know your triggers and how to protect them: Prepare for emotional or stressful situations by thinking about what people, actions, or comments tend to “push your buttons” and try to come up with internal thought mechanisms that can help you protect yourself.
- Communication & relationships really do matter: Learn to be a skilled communicator, an active team member, and problem-solver.
Credit: Content from Communication Matters by ASK Resource Center. Look for the complete article in the FEP January Newsletter. Link to the article as provided by ASK Resource Center (no webpage/pdf only): http://askresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Communication-Matters.pdf