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Rays of Sunshine
If you want to move up the ranks of masterful communication, you have to watch what you say to others. Not just in the showpieces of communication such as a presentation, a memo, or a meeting, but in everyday interaction. Learn these seven rules and you can quietly and unobtrusively become a master of interpersonal relationships.
No matter what you say or how you say it, at bottom your communication will always reveal your true thoughts and attitudes. As such, you always have two choices. You can communicate from a standpoint of love or from one of fear. When your communication is laced with sarcasm, blame, threat, anger, anxiety, worry, and control, you are essentially communicating fear. When your communication is laced with respect, appreciation, acceptance, joy, delight, wonder, and acceptance, you are essentially communicating love. If you don’t quite understand the difference, there is an easy way to communicate love not fear: always be kind.
“Words are but pictures of our thoughts.” (John Dryden 1631 – 1700)
2. Be Aware of Your Effect on Others.
We often use language to criticize and attack others. Some people are masters of doing this in disguise; others do it openly. For many, communication is a battle that they have to win and words are their chief weapons of war. Harsh words can cut people deep and leave their scars for days if not years. That’s why the mark of the true communicator is to know what effect their words have on others and to adjust them accordingly.
“Some words are like rays of sunshine, others like barbed arrows, or the bite of a serpent. And if hard words cut so deep, how much pleasure can kind ones give?” (Sir John Lubbock 1834 – 1913)
3. Emphasize the Positive.
Really masterful communication doesn’t just depend on getting your message across or even clarifying what someone else is trying to say to you. It goes much deeper. Great communicators leave people feeling better than they did. They said something of value to the other person. Or they appreciated what the other person was saying to them. This happens when the communication isn’t just about the words; it’s about the people.
“There is a subterranean emotional economy that passes amongst all of us. In every interaction, we can make people feel better or worse.” (Daniel Coleman)
4. Don’t Assume You’ve Been Understand.
The history of relationships is littered with the history of misunderstood communications. A word gone awry here, a meaning missed there: they all add up to distorting your message and being mis-received.
The story is told of the teacher who handed out a set of worksheets to the pupil at the front of her class with the words, “Please pass these around”. She then turned her attention to the next topic. A few minutes later, she looked up to see the pupil at the back of the room sitting with all the worksheets wondering what to do with them.
As Stephen Covey reminds us, “First, seek to be understood; then understand.”
5. Know When to Shut Up.
If you’ve ever attended a workplace meeting, you’ll know how hard it is to say nothing. Many people attend business meetings with the sole intention of talking, even if it isn’t relevant, even if the point has already been made. Talking is a way to impress. As a result, many meetings waste time and are unproductive. The best communicators are those who are secure enough to admit when they have little to say or little to add. They know when to shut up.
"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play and Z is keep your mouth shut." (Albert Einstein 1879 - 1955)
6. Don’t Interrupt.
If you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation between two people, you’ll probably have noticed that, instead of there being a progression of ideas building one on top of the other, most people talk over one another. It resembles a contest more than a dialogue. It is rare to see people listening with openness and non-judgment until the other person has stopped speaking. And even rarer to hear people asking for clarification and help with understanding. But holding back while you listen to others is the mark of the real communications expert.
“There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that’s all.” (Rebecca West)
7. Don’t Gossip.
Gossip is a particularly pernicious form of communication. It is idle, often indulged in merely to pass the time, and serves no real purpose other than to make ourselves feel better at the expense of others. If you work with others who like to gossip, simply learn the trick of disengagement: don’t reply, don’t be drawn in, and never do it yourself.
“Great minds think and talk about ideas. Average minds think and talk about situations. Little minds think and talk about other people.”
Working on improving your communications is a broad-brush activity. You have to change your thoughts, your feelings, and your physical connections. That way you can break down the barriers that get in your way and start building relationships that really work. Communicate with others like rays of sunshine, not poisoned arrows.
Many more articles in Communications in The CEO Refresher Archives