One consistent theme that comes up in nearly every individual or team session I do: there’s a communications breakdown. Almost every disagreement can be linked to either miscommunication or failure to listen to the other person’s point of view.

I learned the hard way. Early in my career I was about to write a negative email to my boss when he told me I was going to get promoted and then afterwards told me he had to post the position publicly. I was livid. A coworker ran across the room after asking my boss if he still intended to give me the position. He said yes. I got the promotion soon after.

The lesson: Don’t react until you have all the information. Here’s what you need to do to break the communication cycles that are affecting your life. We’re going to use a similar method as she crossing the street: stop, look,  listen, listen more . . . then talk.


This refers to simply pausing before the taking verbal action. Counting to 5 or taking a breath is a good way to reset. If the person is still talking, let them finish. Interrupting kicks tension up a notch.


We’ll go into this further in a body language article later this month, but think about both the tone you used and the body language both of you are presenting. Was the statement you took to heart said by the person while smiling? Was the look stern?  Was it intended? Was the tone, happy, sad, indifferent, etc.


Often, when you’re upset, either you or the person you are talking to was misinterpreted or had a valid reason for their reaction. For instance, let’s say you told your husband you were tired and want to go to bed, but you failed to mention to put your child to bed. Your husband doesn’t. You get mad because you thought he knew. Ask him why he didn’t put the child to bed first and then you can make a better decision. You may also decide to communicate differently next time.

Listen more

Sometimes the person will say the words you’re waiting for if you just given them a minute. This goes back to the stop note. It applies whether you are listened to 2 sentences or 10.

Now talk

You have much more information to have a good reaction and a better talk. Remember, the key word is talk. Emails are great for communicating transactions, but not so great for handling connections. A disagreement should always be handled by phone or in person when you can interpret tone, body language or both.


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 transform your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift – all are available on  To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit

Photo credit: Shootin’ for Fun