Faith Wood knows how to resolve conflict. Her years in front-line law enforcement taught her how to effectively de-escalate any situation to a successful conclusion. Faith will use her knowledge of conflict management to guide you through the often stressful experiences you may encounter in your personal or professional life. Her Conflict Coach column appears every two weeks.
Question: I feel like I’m constantly drawn into battle to get my opinions heard. Whether at home or work, it feels like my thoughts and ideas are constantly being ignored or taken out of context.
How can I become a better communicator and lessen the amount of conflict I find myself embroiled in?
Answer: Communication is the key when it comes to anything that involves collaboration. Since humans are a social species, communication is involved in nearly everything we do.
Some people are born with the natural ability to communicate well, while others may struggle with it. No matter what category you fall into, with all the disruptions in our lives these days, it’s likely we can all benefit from paying attention to improving our communication skills.
Proper communication will prevent misunderstandings and save you time, so you won’t have to go back and explain yourself again and again. You know you’ve gained good communication skills when you can communicate your thoughts effectively with as few words as necessary.
Communication is a two-way street. This means you could have excellent skills but if the recipient is lacking, then you may not be understood. This is why it’s important not only to develop our speaking skills but our listening skills, too.
Since you can’t affect the skill level of others, the only thing you can do is strengthen your own communication skills. Besides, when you’re an excellent communicator, more people will understand you, everything around you will run more efficiently and you’ll more often get what you want.
Try these strategies to improve your communication skills:
If you run into a snag in a conversation and it starts to morph into an argument, step back and realize what’s going on.
It’s easy to get swept up in the blame game but ultimately it’s not important who’s at fault. What’s important is the mutual understanding of the issue at hand and a desire for a solution that benefits everyone.
Don’t be afraid to compromise
You may be tempted to try to ‘win’ but that’s not the best way to reach a mutual agreement. You may be happier with getting your way but it may come at the expense of the other person, which can cause further issues.
Find a good compromise that you both can willingly accept.
Work on listening
Your listening skills are even more important than your speaking skills. After all, how will you know what you should say – and when – if you haven’t effectively listened?
Listen more than you speak and you’ll gain the profound wisdom of others, too.
Keep your focus
Communication will get overly complicated if you worry about too many issues at once. Avoid bringing up the past or other issues and, instead, focus on the one topic at hand.
Stay calm and take responsibility
Adopt a calm and cool manner in handling situations. When things remain low-key, it’s easier to communicate and get your point across.
This also means you need to take responsibility for what you say. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes when you’re wrong.
Becoming a better communicator doesn’t happen overnight. But if you keep practicing and tweaking your skills, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.