Successful communication in 1: 1 conversations
Good communication is an important key to success, creates a harmonious coexistence and helps to avoid conflicts. To improve your communication and to be able to master difficult conversations calmly and successfully, a few basic and straightforward skills and techniques help – the effect you can achieve by using them is all the greater!
It is not only important what we say, but also how we say it!
In the following, we would like to introduce “5 keys” which significantly improve the way people communicate with each other – also in conflict situations.
Make sure that what you say is heard!
1. How do we communicate? What is our individual way of communicating based on?
Our communication is based on our view of the world – our values, our culture, our ideas, our experiences, our knowledge. When we talk about a topic, what we say and what we are convinced of is always derived from this very own view of the world. Since individual values, cultures, ideas, experiences and knowledge differ – sometimes more, sometimes less – from person to person, our view of the world and thus our communication also differs to a certain extent. When we communicate with a person who has similar values, experiences and ideas as we do, our views overlap. We agree with the other person, communication is easy and we perceive our counterpart as a pleasant, easy conversation partner.
However, if the other person’s views differ significantly from our own, things become more complicated. The danger of misunderstandings and conflicts is high.
There are two ways to overcome this and to communicate successfully in these cases:
- You broaden your “horizon”: this is done by learning, gaining new experiences and trying to understand other points of view.
- You look for the points that you can at least pick up and accept, even if you don’t agree.
The first and most important step in communicating with people whose opinions do not match with our perspective, is to be aware that each person has his or her own views, based on individual values, experiences, upbringing and knowledge. Therefore, our counterpart is as convinced about his or her point of view as we are of ours – and has every right to be!
This acceptance opens up new opportunities to approach each other – or to agree on having different points of view on certain topics and accepting this difference.
Acceptance and tolerance of conflicting opinions is key # 1 to successful communication.
Literature recommendations: based on Vera F. Birkenbihl: Problems in communication – “Inselmodell”
2. Communication on equal level
Accepting other points of view, even if we absolutely do not share them, helps us to communicate on an equal footing.
A conversation often fails because this equal level is missing, e.g. if one conversation partner feels superior to his counterpart and acts in a patronizing, instructing or overly caring manner. The counterpart reacts either defensively or submissively. As a result, either a dispute evolves or the conversation partner withdraws, although he / she is not convinced. In both cases, the communication failed and no sustainable agreement could be reached.
Communication on equal level is based on mutual acceptance. It remains factual and illuminates the pros and cons of both sides neutrally. Both conversation partners feel understood and recognized, a defensive attitude or surrender is avoided and a solution is possible.
Pay attention to the dynamics in conversations: The different “ego states” are often assumed subconsciously depending on the situation! They are present in every conversation because they are an intrinsic part of our personality. They are expressed by the chosen words as well as by body-language and facial expressions.
Sentences like “You have to do it this way … ” or ” It is clear to everyone that … ” are classic characteristics for the role of the dominant, teaching ego-state, “I just wanted to help! ” as well, expressed as a caring attitude. “But I still do it differently!” and “If you say so, I’ll probably give it a try …” indicates surrender and a rather submissive or defensive ego-state.
The attitude towards your conversation partner and the choice of words can be the nuances that decide whether communication is going well or not!
The basic assumption “I am ok – you are ok” as a basis and an awareness of the role we play in a conversation are key # 2 for successful communication.
Literature recommendations: based on Eric Berne “Games People Play” – Transactional Analysis
3. Flexible communication – avoid “no-go” words
“You are always late!”, “You never listen to me!”, “You have to do it now!”, “Yes, but …”
Formulations like this trigger an immediate defensive response are furthermore probably not even true. Once in attack-defense mode, it is difficult to get communication back on track.
If possible, try to avoid excessive generalizations and make your choice of words “softer”.
“It would be nice if you …” sounds much better than “You have to …”. “This is so and so …” is harder than “I think it is so and so …”.
“Yes, but” + counter argument is a poorly disguised defense.
“Yes, and” + supplement is including. This wording does not wipe a statement from the table to replace it with another. You build on the previous statement, even if the following addition deviates considerably or creates a new perspective.
This small step alone completely changes the way your message comes across and your counterpart will be more open to your opinions and arguments.
Formulations that do not generalize unrealistically and a choice of words that signals a less “absolute”, rigid attitude are key # 3 for successful communication.
4. Separation of Person and Action
When we criticize other people, it often happens at the identity level and not at the factual level. Statements such as “You are messy!”, “You are slow!” are statements about the supposed identity of a person and exaggerated generalizations. Is a child a messy person just because it sometimes doesn’t stow away his clothes properly?
No, certainly not.
It is important to clearly distinguishing between the action from the identity of person.
This is an important topic especially in the area of children’s coaching:
A child who keeps hearing “you are messy and slow” includes “messy” and “slow” as an integral part of their identity and could develop beliefs such as “I am messy and slow, therefore I am not good enough.” With this conviction it seems impossible for the child to change and he or she feels inferior to his classmates in various situations.
Even as adults, beliefs like this have the power to limit us significantly in our development, undermine our self-confidence and create uncertainty an doubt.
Since these beliefs are deeply rooted in our subconscious, we are hardly aware of them as the cause of inner blockades. It is only when we actively start to get to the bottom of the causes that these – often simply wrong, irrelevant or exaggerated – beliefs can be brought to our awareness and reduced.
Whether you criticize or praise – stay on the factual level: this is key # 4 to successful communication.
Recommended literature: Robert B. Dilts “Changing Belief Systems with NLP” / Stefanie Stahl “Das Kind in Dir muss Heimat finden”
More on the subject of “Belief Systems – Recognizing and Removing Inner blockades“ coming up as a next “In Focus” topic!
5. Communicate successfully – even in conflict situations
Not only what we say, but also how we say it is crucial. Criticism that is too generalized by words like “never” or “always” inevitably triggers resistance, as does judgmental language. The likelihood that the problem will be solved in such a way is almost zero.
In order to communicate effectively and ensure that our comments, wishes, criticism or points of view are really heard by our counterpart, we need a language that connects rather than triggers defense.
An employee is repeatedly late for meetings. You are annoyed because you and your team lose time and must work longer. Furthermore, you feel that the employee’s behavior is disrespectful.
Instead of now criticizing and provoking resistance –
“You are always late. This is very disrespectful. I won’t tolerate this anymore.” – try to describe your observation as specifically and neutrally as possible:
What exactly happened?
“In our team meeting last week, in the meeting with the department manager on monday and in the team meeting this week, you were about 10 minutes late.”
This is a concrete observation and understandable for your employee.
Now tell the employee what kind of feeling you are experiencing in the situation: you are annoyed! Try to name the feeling as precisely as possible – it makes a difference whether you are irritated, sad, angry, or burst with anger!
There is also a Need behind the feeling, which is not fulfilled by the situation. This is your main reason for addressing the situation. So why should the situation with the employee be changed?
… because you do not feel respected and because you find it unfair if other employees have to work longer due to the delay.
Respect, fairness, justice are the universal human needs that are violated by the behavior of the employee.
Share this with your employee – making sure that you are strictly talking about yourself – your perceptions, your feelings and your needs – when you address the topic:
“In our team meeting last week, in the meeting with the department manager on monday and in the team meeting this week, you were about 10 minutes late. This annoys me because the whole team loses time and must stay longer. Respect and fairness are very important to me. Could you please do your part and appear on time for the meetings? ”
At the end there is a clear, positively formulated request for action. Do not say what you do not want – just state clearly what you want!
The concrete observation, the clear description of the feelings the situation triggers, the reason why you ask your employee for action (the unmet needs) and the clearly expressed request,
will help the employee to understand why he should change and how. Your chance of success increases significantly!
The 4 steps:
are the elements of the technique of “nonviolent communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg.
The goal is an empathic, connecting language that makes it possible to express criticism without creating conflicts.
“Nonviolent communication” is therefore key # 5 to successful communication – and one of the most important instruments in the areas of conflict management and mediation.
Literature recommendations: based on Marshall B. Rosenberg – “Nonviolent Communication”
We hope you liked our 5 chosen “keys” and can use them in your communication. All new techniques need practice – nobody communicates in any situation with the perfect choice of words. Just the awareness of these “keys” will help you to prepare difficult conversations optimally in advance or to recognize in conversations when things go wrong – and to actively change this!
#inselmodell, #transactionalanalysis, #nonviolentcommunication, #beliefs, #communicatebetter, #nvc
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