The Secret to Good Communication

How you communicate with someone has a direct impact on how stressful the relationship is. But it’s not just about the words you use or the tone of your voice. Most people know that using kind words and not yelling is important for good communication. However, what many people fail to take into account is how the other person is perceiving your message, even if you deliver it with a smile.

For example, how many times do you politely tell others what to do? Maybe you tell your child to clean their room, tell your spouse to take out the trash, or tell your employees how to write a proposal. These are all normal, everyday things. But let’s flip it around. How often do YOU like being told what to do? If you’re like most people, the answer is “not very often if at all.”

The fact is that depending upon the other person’s mental frame at the time when we tell a person what to do—regardless of how admirable our intentions or how nicely we phrase it—the message is often PERCEIVED either as an attempt to control or as a criticism that what the person is doing is not good enough. Neither of those perceptions contributes to a stress-free, positive relationship or having good communication.

This topic reminds me of a friend from my youth who, when told what to do by a parent, would find an excuse NOT to do it. Even if it was something he wanted to do, such as going outside to play, he would find an excuse to stay indoors just because he was TOLD.

Turn it Around with Good Communication

If you truly want to experience good communication, rather than telling others what to do, consider phrasing your idea as a question or stated in a curious mode. For example, if you disapprove of what your youngster wants to do, ask, “What would be the long-term effect of doing that?”

In the situation with my friend, the parent could have had more success by asking, “What’s the weather like outside? I’m thinking of going out later.” After checking the weather, my friend probably would have asked to go outside and play—exactly what the parent desired.

Tip: Before telling someone what you’d like them to do, think of a way to rephrase in a question or in a way that would pique their interest. By doing so, you’ll not only improve the relationship, but you’ll also enable both parties to experience less stress.