Arguably the single-most important skill needed to succeed in both college and your career is effective communication. Regardless of your major, job, or interests, if you can’t effectively communicate with another human being, you’re in trouble.
Miscommunication brings unwanted stress, anxiety, and distraction. It can tear apart relationships, which can have a long-lasting impact. Think about the disagreements and arguments you have dealt with recently. Most stem from miscommunication. It may have been with a roommate, professor, date, parent, or the dry cleaner.
There may be days when you struggle to be assertive, manage your emotions, and express yourself with clarity. The key is to pay close attention to your current habits and patterns. Acquiring these skills will take practice. And I’m not talking about text messages or Vine. These skills require human-to-human communication, because too much can be lost with technology (see tip #3 below).
Consider these tips to become more effective in resolving conflicts and disagreements:
1. Resolve problems face-to-face
Don’t try to address misunderstandings in an e-mail, text message, online, or over the phone. An in-person discussion is important, because it reduces the likelihood of further confusion or conflict. Skype or Facetime may be a good alternative. Ninety-three percent of our communication is nonverbal, which means body language, gestures, posture, and eye contact are critical. With technology, we lose many of the communication resources that are needed to help bridge communication gaps.
2. See the disagreement from another perspective
This is called empathy, and it’s necessary in conflict resolution. In the mentoring, coaching, and workshops I provide to college students, many have confided that they are so focused on their own feelings, they become victims to a self-imposed drama. The result is they fail to consider the sensitivities and point-of-view of other people.
3. Be aware of triggers
We all have certain people or situations that set us off. You know, people who push your buttons and ruin your day. Identify these triggers so you can work on changing your behaviors. Falling into the same traps over and over again will only bring added frustration.
If you are speaking with someone and either one of you notice there’s defensive and demeaning language and old issues being rehashed, it’s time to pull back. Try this phrase: “I’m noticing this isn’t a positive or helpful discussion, so maybe it’s best if we just take a break. I’m not blaming you or me, let’s just regroup for a few minutes.” Walk outside for a few minutes but be sure you agree to return and continue the discussion in a more productive way. Don’t try to follow-up with an e-mail or phone call later in the day. Resolve the challenges before you leave.
Successful business leaders are skilled at clearly articulating their point without raising their voices or becoming emotional. It is possible to remain calm while being respectful of differing opinions. The sooner you learn that, the more pleasant your interactions will be, now and for the rest of your life.