Communication, as we all know (or should know), involves a balance of give and take, talk and listen, expression and validation. But how many times have we found ourselves in the midst of a communication gone wrong, where in retrospect we regret not having represented ourselves positively, or wish we’d treated the other person more fairly? Communication is really about negotiation; the expression of one’s needs to another, and theirs to you. And whether you’re asking for a raise or asking for a date, diplomacy is one of the most useful tools available to us for productive communication. By understanding the rules, we can be more successful in all our relationships, at the workplace, with family and friends, when dealing with strangers, and of course in our dating and intimate relationships.
1. Listen. Believe it or not, listening, as opposed to talking, is actually the cornerstone of diplomatic communication. Active listening, which includes maintaining eye contact and not interrupting unless you need to ask a question for clarity, shows respect for the person you’re communicating with, and sets the tone. You will also set an example for the other person on how to react when it’s your turn to talk.
2. Be Empathetic. Being mindful of the other person’s feelings and situation will remind you that you are in a two-way communication with two sides. As much as you may feel like you’re owed something, the other person has just as much right to their opinion as you do. The key is getting both parties to understand and acknowledge where the other is coming from, making negotiation and compromise that much easier.
3. Be Firm. If you need to say “no”, say it firmly, explain your reasoning, don’t be overly-apologetic, but remain friendly.
4. Stay Accountable. Using phrases like, “What I need is…” instead of “You always do this” or “You make me feel like”, keeps you accountable, instead of blaming the other person. State your needs clearly, and remember you are asking for something, you shouldn’t be expecting anything.
5. Remain Calm. When we feel we’re being attacked, or aren’t getting our “own way”, we can often revert back into childish behaviour, and try to make the other person feel just like we are, by attacking back. This solves nothing, and actually negates any progress you’ve made, making it extremely difficult to maintain rationality. When you change the “rules”, by raising your voice, or using insults, you change the tone, and often it sparks the same (or escalated) reaction from the other person. When we’re not calm, we cannot listen properly, and thus problem solving becomes impossible.
6. Find Common Ground. Even when you’re disagreeing with someone, it’s usually possible to find some point, no matter how small, that you can agree on. Look for these points and draw attention to them, as they’re often what helps keep things civil and more easily solved during the communication process.
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