Learning from Failed Communcation

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded of how my words can be harmful in communicating with others and how I need to be more careful with what I say. I’ve also been reminded of the power of words to destroy in light of the ugly rhetoric of the current healthcare debates. Here are some ideas to apply in our interactions with others.

Listen to the other person

This one seems to be obvious, but I often find myself half way listening to people and just looking for an opportunity to interject my opinions rather than trying to let a person complete his or her train of thought. By listening closely we not only show respect, but learn more about those with whom we are speaking, which will better enable us to bring the best out of them.

Think from the other person’s perspective
I often find myself quick to brush aside somebody’s way of thinking if I disagree with it. Truly, the best way to deal with disagreeing thoughts is to try and understand how a person came to the conclusion. This can help build empathy rather than disdain. By asking ourselves ” What would I do if I was in this person’s situation” we can often see why somebody has arrived at a place that we dislike intellectually, or made an unwise decision in action.

Be constructive
Not everything is an argument and we don’t have to go for the intellectual knock out if we disagree with somebody. Just because I believe something is true doesn’t mean I should say it. Rather than focusing on differences, two people with seemingly opposing views can often walk away from a conversation with a mutual strategy for dealing with common ground issues.

Question your own motivations
I often say or think things about other people to make myself feel better about my shortcomings. By focusing on other people problems mine seem justifiable. If we can question our motivations before we speak we can often save others and ourselves a lot of pain.

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