Improving How You Communicate in Life’s Hardest Situations

It might not seem this way, but we don’t communicate enough. Sure, we have thousands of channels through which to communicate TO one another, and for many of us it feels like we are saturated day in and day out with news, text messages, and email. We are! But that’s not the communication I’m talking about.

In fact, I think that all this one-way communication we have come to rely on makes it even more important to prioritize authentic connections with the people in our personal lives.

As I talk about about in Honestly Speaking: How the Way We Communicate Transforms Leadership, Love, and Life, looking to find common ground with others especially when situations are stressful or contentious will help you get your ideas across better and get to the outcome you seek more quickly.

Your social media posts will be missed or misunderstood. Your lack of response on email or to a text message could be taken any number of ways, no matter what your intentions might have been. You will have to have very hard conversations. That is life, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it.

My best advice for when those situations arise (or when you seek out these opportunities for authentic connection with the people in your life) is to come from a place of inquiry.

Be curious about the situation, and try to stand back as an impartial observer. This will allow you to be more genuine. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help guide you:

What do I want in this situation? What am I scared might happen? What’s the worst that could happen? What’s my ideal outcome?

  • Am I avoiding or ignoring, and why?
  • What is the other person thinking? What words would they use to describe me based on how I’ve been speaking and acting toward them?
  • What could I say or do to show the other person that I’ve been respectful toward them? To make them feel heard?
  • What are two or three different ways I could say the same thing?
  • Have I apologized in an honest and direct way? Have I taken ownership of how I might be perceived to the other person?

The benefits of this sort of genuine self-reflection are enormous. Genuine empathy and honest dialogue are the cornerstones of any relationship, whether it’s just beginning or has lasted years.

Putting these communications practices into use will, more than anything else, change the dynamics of your relationships for the better. The ramifications of this are endlessly positive for you.

This article is excerpted from Honestly Speaking: How the Way We Communicate Transforms Leadership, Love, and Life to be released July 2019, available for pre-order now.

Communications and culture leader, author, certified coach, lawyer, yoga teacher.