The Happiness Connection  

No. 1 communication skill

Arguably, the most important skill anyone can have is the ability to communicate clearly.

There are two halves to communication.

  • Sharing your thoughts
  • Listening to what other people say with the intent of understanding their words

Both are equally important.

People watching is one of my favourite activities. If you can get to a place of observing without judgment, it is rich with insight.

I witnessed a disagreement between a couple who have been happily married for more than 30 years. I was curious to see how they would resolve the situation and what I could share with my readers to make dispute resolution easier in their lives.

Here are my top three suggestions.

  • Emotions need to be controlled if you want your conversation to be effective
  • Listening to what others say is vital
  • The biggest opportunity for misunderstanding lies in the words you use

Whenever you let negative emotions take hold, you put yourself into fight-flight mode. When this happens, you lose your ability to learn or take in new information. Instead, you put all your energy into survival.

Things are difficult enough when you are trying to resolve a disagreement. In survival mode, you want to win at all costs. You become less interested in what anyone else says, you just want to argue your viewpoint.

Take deep breaths and stay calm if you notice yourself becoming emotionally triggered. If necessary, take a break to re-establish an even-temper.

Reframe the situation as an opportunity to learn about a different perspective not as a battle that needs to be won. Look for a win-win resolution, not win-lose.

Listening to what the other person is saying is vital for good communication. It is almost impossible to do this if your emotions have led you into fight/flight territory.

Not only should you hear the words, you need to attempt to understand the thoughts the speaker is trying to convey. Don’t use your listening time to plan your next retort. This is easier to do if you aren’t emotionally triggered.

Spending the time when you aren’t speaking to plan out what you will say next is not the same as listening. In fact, if you do this, I guarantee you aren’t listening.

Communicating with family can be very challenging. It is easy to get emotionally invested in the outcome. If you are sure you are right, it is easy to dismiss what the other person is saying without trying to understand their perspective.

I can remember many occasions when I didn’t care what the other person said because I was sure I was right. When I learned to stay calm, my ability to listen improved immensely.

Aim to listen specifically for at least two points that the other person is presenting. You don’t have to begin speaking the minute they stop. Ask for a few minutes to process what they’ve said. That is the time to decide what you want to say, not while they are speaking.

The last point is in my opinion, the area that is most likely to derail any conversation. Don’t assume that the meanings you assign to words and expressions are shared by everyone else.

When I travel, I am reminded that words don’t mean the same thing to each person. Culture, upbringing, and past experiences all contribute to the way you interpret vocabulary.

This is more noticeable when you are in a different English-speaking culture, but it is equally applicable when you are at home.

If you have an extensive vocabulary, unless you are positive that the person you are talking to has an equally good grasp of your words, use simpler more familiar ones.

If you say something only to be greeted by an unexpectedly heated response, slow down and make sure your vocabulary hasn’t been interpreted in a different way than you had intended.

When my husband flew to Canada the first time, we had a disagreement and I suggested he should stop acting like a jerk. You would have thought I had shot him in the chest from the reaction I received.

Granted, it wasn’t the nicest thing I could have said, but it wasn’t worthy of the indignation I witnessed.

Acting like a jerk wasn’t a typically British expression at the time, so my husband assumed I was saying something much worse than I was. Communication was derailed and tempers flared.

The purpose of dialogue is to share ideas, so don’t stick to your guns and insist on using words you know the average person has never heard.

Ask for clarification if someone uses a word or phrase you aren’t familiar with. If you suspect someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, rephrase it.

When you find yourself in an argument, remind yourself that you are talking to find a resolution, or at the very least, a shared understanding. The aim is not to win by making the other person surrender. There doesn’t have to be a right and a wrong side.

Communication is vital to working and living with other people. If everyone communicated with these three principles in mind, imagine what we could accomplish.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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