"Can you hear me now?" . . . You probably remember those often repeated words either from the advertising campaign by Verizon Wireless from several years ago, or because you had horrible wireless coverage at some point. Sometimes in everyday conversations we can find ourselves asking those closest to us that very same question, "Can you hear me now?"
Here are five things you can do today to improve the quality of your communication with your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues.
1. Be intentional and consistent. One of the biggest errors in communication is simply failing to have it. Though you can have quantity of communication without quality of communication, you cannot have quality of communication without quantity of communication. Be intentional about setting aside time to consistently communicate with people close to you. In the absence of information, you are only left with assumption. When we communicate regularly we don't have to make assumptions about others because we are sharing information.
2. Remove distractions. The secret of concentration is elimination. If you want to communicate better, learn to eliminate things that will distract you from concentrating on the conversation. Television, phones, kids, computers, social media, and an endless list of other things can prevent us from communicating well. In a culture that values multitasking, we need to come to terms with the fact that multitasking is an enemy of good communication.
3. Listen more, talk less. The Bible is clear, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)" We ought to be eager to listen to others instead of being so intent on getting our own point across. When we listen well, we earn others' trust and they are more eager to hear us.
4. Ask better questions. Ask more open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions can be answered in just a few words and they tend to shut conversation down. "Did you have a good time?" "Did you like the party?" These are questions that can be answered with a yes or no and don't room for further discussion. Learn to ask better questions like, "How was your day?" or "What was your favorite part of the party?" These types of questions promote further conversation and tell others that we a re genuinely interested in hat they have to say.
5. Aim for understanding. When we converse with others it's easy to assume that communication is going well because we can repeat back what the other person is saying. But knowledge of the content that they are sharing does not mean that we understand what they are saying. Our aim should be to understand what others are trying to say to us. If your child says to you, "I hate it when you treat me this way," what are they trying to get you to understand about them and/or the situation? If we get hung up on the content of their statement, we'll miss a golden opportunity to fully understand them.
Communication can be tricky. But, it is the lifeline of any good relationship. If you take the time to make some changes in the way you communicate, it will pay rich dividends.