Wednesday, January 6, 2016

6 tips for respectful communication

One of the important parts of our life journey is our communication—the way we talk with and listen to others. Some days I worry that the art of conversation has been lost. I worry that civil discourse has become a thing of the past, too. Some conversations are more monologue than dialogue. And some discussions close rather than open doors. Some are positively hurtful and offensive—no one listening to anyone else.

Have you had conversations that are totally one-sided? Me, too. I've also had conversations in which the other person has so forcefully put an opinion out there (as though it were absolute truth) that the door to further discussion is slammed shut. What might we do to avoid these situations? Here are a few tips (certainly not an exhaustive list):

1) Look at the other person with compassion and openness. Ask yourself if this is your one chance to be with that person, what would you like to know? Ask questions. Wait for answers.
2) Use "I messages" when you state opinions and feelings, making clear that it's simply what you think, not necessarily the only and one true answer. Own what you say. Using "I messages" doesn't mean you talk about yourself the entire time, either!
3) Learn the art of what writer Jan Phillips calls "conversation wrangling." If a conversation turns negative or difficult, gently and without judgment try to wrangle or steer the discussion into a more positive and open one.
4) Suspend judgment. Judging others and letting them know how wrong they are really says something negative about us rather than about the other.
5) Always, always remember an important ratio: One mouth, two ears.
6) Your mother was right: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Keep conversations civil. That doesn't mean avoiding hot topics. It means addressing them in a civil and respectful manner.

What would you add to this list?

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