Communication Skills – I need to work on them, and so do you!

So I have decided that my New Year’s resolution will be to compliment people more and make them feel better about the things they are good at.  It will take a while to retrain myself, so I’m starting now with the hopes of significant achievement by New Years to continue throughout 2013.

Listening to a my local NPR station, and many discussions/arguments with my boyfriend recently, made me think about communication skills in general.

Everyone is a different person with their own experience and point of view.  It can be very difficult to have an open discussion with people on the opposite side of an issue.  Especially during the election season, discussions can be heated and break down, possibly causing long term hurt for a friend or loved one.  On this week’s radio episode of This American Life, they interview people of differing political parties who have experienced the loss of a friendship or personal relationship because of their political views and statements.

I like how they interviewed “Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess, two political opposites and authors of You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong), about their advice for how liberals and conservatives can have more productive conversations” and brought them on to help two sisters mend a relationship.  The lesson here is that you can’t have these discussions with the goal of changing the other person’s mind.

Boy, can I relate to that, and not in a political way.   My boyfriend and I have had many of these heated conversation lately.  I get very frustrated because he repeats himself over and over, which seems like he will not listen or consider my point of view and is just waiting for me to adopt his side and thinks I’m just confused.  Not the case.  This cycle of discussion drives me crazy because I feel like my point of view is not considered.

I have an idea for a solution!!!  From now on, when in such conversations with him, I will have to repeat what he just said back to him, so he knows I understand his point of view.  Then it is clear that I’m rejecting or differing from his point of view, not just misunderstanding.  Then I will state my point of view and force him to repeat so I know he’s at least processing what I have said.

Granted I’m not the best conversationalist; maybe you have noticed.  I like to get to the heart of the discussion, and not dilly dally on unimportant details.  I lose patience when the discussion becomes repetitive (which is natural for his professor mentality).  So it can be difficult for me to have meaningful conversations at times, especially about nonsense.

We all could use help understanding how to improve communication with friends, family, and co-workers, etc.  A book about the 5 Languages of Love is great for understanding how your partner might give and receive the feeling of love, and how that might differ from you.   There is also the 5 Languages of Apology.   I would also recommend, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty by Dr. Dan Ariely and a relationship book We love each other but..  by Dr. Ellen Wachtel.

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