Miscommunication can happen in any relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. And when it does, it’s important that we step back and acknowledge how we can communicate more clearly going forward. This is a topic we discuss in our book, Your Time to Thrive, where we use science, storytelling, ancient wisdom, and practical advice, to help readers improve their health, happiness, and sense of purpose.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the words and phrases that help them communicate more effectively and mindfully. Which of these phrases will you start using?
“Tell me more.”
“I have learned to use appreciative inquiry to gain trust and open communication in personal and professional relationships. Phrases like, ‘Tell me more…’ or ‘What are you trying to achieve and how can I help you?’ create the feeling of inclusion and partnership to facilitate a two-way communication.”
—Isabelle Bart, social entrepreneur and coach, Orange County, CA
“Help me understand.”
“I always find that the one phrase that helps me establish better lines of communication, resolve conflicts, and get people on the same page is ‘Help me understand.’ This is a powerful phrase that creates a dialogue and allows for all parties to feel heard.”
—Armida Markarova, professional development and employee engagement expert, Chicago, IL
“Thank you for sharing.”
“I’ve found that during the pandemic, communication has become more challenging, as many people feel heightened in their emotions. Conversations require more clarity. When navigating a difficult conversation, I will write, ‘Thank you for sharing, as you have a right to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.’ I will then proceed with my feelings on the subject. My goal is to set the tone for a respectful and safe space for a candid conversation.”
—Jennifer Ettinger, social media strategist, Cleveland, OH
“I like what you said about…”
“To communicate effectively, I use what I call the 10% rule. No matter what is being said by someone, there is likely to be at least 10% that you can find that you could agree with, think is a good idea, or simply a starting point. Keeping this in mind has many benefits. It ensures that you are listening to what the other person is saying and are not dismissing them out of hand. The other person feels heard and validated as you are responding positively and constructively. I try to follow up with saying, ‘I like what you said about…’ or ‘I agree with…’ The idea is to focus on something you can agree with, rather than the things you don’t.”
—John Kenny, relationship coach, London, England, U.K.
“I like to substitute the word ‘but’ with the word ‘and.’ it works wonders! When in discussion with someone else, we are always waiting for the word ‘but,’ which suggests opposition and disagreement. Somehow substituting with ‘and’ always softens the statement and opens ears to what you have to say. For many years as a school superintendent, I had to negotiate with my Board of Trustees, teachers, unions and at the individual level with parents, and this trick always helped me streamline communication. And as a mom and a wife, it is invaluable!”
—Barbara C., superintendent of education, Toronto, ON, Canada
“Let me stop talking and hear your perspective.”
“With everyone communicating on camera, we are less able to read body language and maintain a natural dialogue back and forth. To help keep my communication clear, I’ve been using the phrase, ‘Let me stop talking and hear your perspective.’ The phrase forces me to be more succinct and invites dialogue.”
—Donna Peters, executive coach and MBA faculty, Atlanta, GA
“I find that everything is more effective when presented as an offer. This is especially helpful when presenting an opposing view. For example, I’ll say, ‘I’d offer that it’s more important to hire based on who is the best fit for the team than on experience. The reason is….’ I’ve also found that when people are nervous to speak in meetings or presentations, this simple opening helps because offering feels better than trying to prove yourself.”
—Pam Reece, leadership and wellness consultant, New York, N.Y.
“Do you want me to simply listen?”
“To encourage empathy and clarity in my conversations, I often find myself asking, ‘Can I share something about that with you or did you just want me to listen?’ Sometimes, people just want to be heard and are not looking for feedback, so this helps to gauge if they would like another perspective or not, and leaves the person feeling heard and cared for either way.”
—Julie Demsey, hypnotherapist, coach, author, Sydney, Australia
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