This summer my husband and I celebrated our 34th anniversary. You’d think after all that time together, we have this communicating thing down. Yeah, well, not always.
I’ve learned from firsthand experience that, in our most comfortable relationships, we can get lazy and just plain sloppy in how we communicate.
We find ourselves taking shortcuts, and we assume that the other person can read our mind and understand things that aren’t being said.
Then, then we get frustrated when they don’t respond the way we want!
We celebrated with a visit to the Salish Lodge for some spa-ing and hiking. By the first 15 minutes of getting settled in our room, we were already getting frustrated with each other. There we were, communicating in shorthand – one word sentences; using cryptic and vague language.
The conversation went something like this:There. Move the thing. I don’t care … (when really I do) Don’t you want…? That’s not one.
It got worse when we went on our hike. Here’s how we started that conversation:Go. Left. N0. Here or there? Bird. Stop.
Now, sometimes we guessed right on what was being communicated, but many times we just got frustrated and even a little angry. We finally took a break, sat down and agreed on some communication ground rules.
Learning from Bo
As we were talking through fixing our sloppy communication, a dog came up to us. We started looking around for an owner and then checked out his tag.
Now there was a good example of clear communication. We decided that if Bo could figure out how to communicate clearly and without frustrating people, then we should be able to!
So we agreed on five simple communication ground rules:
1) Communicate face to face. Be in the same room/space.
2) Say the other’s name when you start talking. This makes sure you have their attention and they aren’t checked out.
3) Be clear. Vague words are not allowed, like “thing,” “that,” “wow,” or “here.” Be as specific and description as you can.
4) Use complete sentences.
4) Check for understanding. If you don’t get a response, follow-up.
5) Avoid answering with “yes” or “no”.
The ground rules were annoying at first and we dabbled in sarcasm and other ways to make it worse. But once we made a commitment to pay better attention to how we were communicating, we were less frustrated, and truly enjoyed each other more.
We just needed to take a step back to make the sloppy clear again!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. And, it’s now available on Kindle! Check it out.