Wednesday, November 30, 2011


             Not getting your reasonable needs met by others in your life be they family, friends, and even casual acquaintances? Consider that the problem may be a lack of communication skills on your part. Here's the fix that can serve you forever, strengthen your relationships, get your needs met, and who knows - maybe even promote world peace.

            Like pieces of a garment pattern, each communication ability makes more sense when seen as part of the whole concept. 
              1. “Process awareness” is the foundation skill of effective verbal communication. It is being aware, without judgment, moment by moment, of your and your partner’s key attitudes, physical and emotional feelings (including hunches and intuitions), thoughts (inner voices), real communication skills, and other needs and objective awareness, and, finally, how you are talking together. Use “process awareness” in all key situations, including when you are alone. With practice, it becomes a habit.

            2. “Metatalk” is honest, clear, and cooperative discussion with a partner about how you are communicating together. It is based on mutual respect and process awareness, and uses a special vocabulary. You build this language over time to your own personal values and style of communicating.

            3. “Empathic listening” is a conscious decision to: suspend your opinions and other needs for the moment; briefly feedback your sense of your partner’s main thoughts, feelings, and needs and vigilantly and objectively note their reactions. This is used when your partner’s emotions are intense and he or she cannot listen to you. Listening empathically does not, however, mean you agree with your partner. Mastering these first three skills is essential for effective “assertion” and “problem solving.”

            4. “Assertion” (the skill or art of) is: clearly knowing what you really need, right now; asking for it plainly and without guilt; calmly expecting a defensive response; respectfully listening to it; and then, firmly repeating these steps until you either get (1.) agreement, (2.) an acceptable compromise, or (3.) switch to the last skill, “problem solving.”

            There are three effective assertion essentials: (1.) Valuing yourself and your partner’s need to communicate equally; (2.) firmly believing that your present needs are legitimate; and (3.) knowing that if you are making a request, compromise and “No” are okay; or, if you are making a demand, they are not okay.

            5. “Problem solving” is used to meet enough of everyone’s real needs when people disagree. This skill involves cooperatively uncovering what each person really needs now, and creatively brainstorming all options to evolve a win-win solution. Effective “problem solving” uses all of the other four skills and requires self-respect and mutual respect, optimism, imagination, patience, and good will. Well used, the power of this skill is enormous.

            We rarely study the skills we rely on the most to get many of our daily and business needs met. Effective verbal communication happens when each person gets his or her major needs met enough and feels good enough about the way he or she did and each person involved.

            A powerful key to success that most people are unaware of is the non-verbal relationship messages that we get from each other all the time. Only when we each decode these face, body, and voice-dynamic signals as, “You see me as a respected equal here,” can effective communication work. If any partner reads, “You seem to feel ‘one-up’ or ‘one-down’ to me,” communication withers. A deadly variation, “I see me as ‘one-down’ also steadily wrecks the outcome of any communication.

             The three most basic verbal communication tools to build are: a healthily love and respect for yourself and your own needs; an equal respect for every partner’s worth, dignity, and needs; and, a knowledge and proactive use of all five of these skills.

Reading about these skills will change little. Trying them patiently and with cautious optimism will cause positive communication and relationship changes, over time. The more you use communication basics and skills to do win-win problem solving, the more automatic and effective it becomes—a priceless life-long road to success.


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