Communication Landmines
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Communication Landmines

When people retire or start medical leave it is often very difficult. This is not just because they can easily slide into a life without routine but also because they might not have an understanding of how their communication style is lacking.

You see when you are in an organization, you have a Policy and Procedures Manual, training, supervision, and clear job description.  Projects usually have blueprints, specifications, and deadlines.  You are assigned tasks and given expectations.  On the other hand, not being in a workplace puts you into an environment where you are on your own - without a boss or supervisor.  You have twenty-four hours to fill based on personal choices.  Once you run out of projects to do around the house you might find yourself to be quite lonely.

When you haven’t established friendships or good relationships with family members, communications can be a minefield for you – especially if you don’t realize how you are coming across to others.

This week one of my clients who is striving for balance in his life, and I were talking about how he wanted to improve his communication style.  We came up with three areas in which he has struggled in the past.  He chose to have each of these represented on a corner of the triangle he was drawing.

  1. Facts – We all like to think that we have knowledge and the wisdom to apply it.  If we believe, however, that we are the only one in a conversation who is right we can get caught in a serious trap – the trap of appearing to be arrogant.  Relentless determination to get our point across or convince others that they are wrong while we are right can be both annoying and disrespectful.
  2. Emotions – Those who are passionate about a topic that they won’t stop talking about might also turn others off. When you are so keyed up that you talk in a loud voice, go on and on and even become argumentative, you are likely not going to build or keep relationships.
  3. Assumptions – There is a human tendency to “guess” how other people feel and think as well as how things are or should be. How many times have you made assumptions only to find out later that you were dead wrong?

After completing the triangle, my client stated, “When I put any one of these in the center of the triangle, I throw myself out of balance”.  Wise man! 

So, what are some of the things that you can do to help keep yourself in balance:

  1. Listen to other people.  They probably have facts and ideas to which you have not yet been exposed.  Ask good questions, wait for the answers, and formulate a response in your head before you begin a long dialogue.  Don’t interrupt.
  2. Pay attention to what is going on in your mind and body. When you hear yourself getting louder, notice a pressure in your chest or start pacing, it is time to self-regulate. Maybe giving yourself a physical time out is in order. Any change from your usual rested state should be viewed as a warning that you might be getting too worked up. 
  3. Develop a curiosity about life. People you are talking with might be giving you cues that indicate how they are perceiving you.  If they are frowning, trying to change the subject, or even moving away from you realize that you are not being heard.

If you are struggling with communication, think about how you handle facts, emotions, and assumptions.  Balance involves ensuring that you don’t put one of these in the middle of the triangle to the detriment of the others.

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