Have you ever spent 24 hours without talking? When was the last time you spent a day without saying a word?
We can all agree that we speak everyday, many times a day, for many purposes. We speak to ask, to communicate, to tell, to explain, to argue, even to insult (for the ones who do). Communication is everywhere, yet do we know how to communicate in order to get the most out of any interaction?
Have you ever watched a foreign movie and felt surprised that you were able to understand most of the story with no subtitles? It is because communication doesn’t stop at the words that come out of your mouth. The belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.
Now imagine yourself in a foreign country not knowing a word of the language and trying to ask about where you can find food. How long would it take you to be understood? It would probably take only a couple of seconds, because you would also use your body to communicate.
Although words represent only a small part of communication, the words we use can have an impact on others, as well as on ourselves. Words have energy, power and can convey kindness, harm, empowerment, humility, humiliation and so on…
In the NVC book, Dr. Rosenberg details the four components to make communication non-violent:
1- Observation (honest statement of the situation without judgment)
2- Feelings (what we feel when we observe this)
3- Needs (the need connected to the feeling)
4- Request (making a clear request of your needs)
For example, a woman who says to her partner: “ (1) John, when I try to tell you my feelings and you walk away and start playing a game on your phone, (2) it makes me feel sad that there are things I can’t share with you. (3) I need to be able to open up my feelings to you”.
Followed by a specific request: “ (4) Would you be willing to listen to me or let me know when a good time is to talk to you about this matter?”
Dr Rosenberg believes that if the 4 components are followed during expressing and receiving, it would strengthen relationships, and diminish anger, depression etc.
Furthermore, keeping in mind that the people we try to communicate with aren’t necessarily on the same page at the exact time we interact with them, forces us to systematically adapt ourselves to the person who receives this information. It would be a little bit too easy to consider that because people don’t understand what you were saying, the fault is theirs and therefore they are… slow.
Between what I want to say, what I think I say, what I actually say, what you want to hear, what you think you hear, what you believe you understand, what you really understand, there are numerous ways to misinterpret the communication.
So here are a few things we could start implementing in our lives:
1- Try to eliminate absolutes such as NEVER and ALWAYS when referring to someone’s behavior. “You always mess up the kitchen!” or “ You never clean up!”
2- Listen to understand rather than listen to respond
3- Try not to communicate from an “I told you so” position. Make sure the message was received. A schoolteacher’s job isn’t to just read the lesson out loud but to make sure the students understand the message. The communicator has the responsibility to make sure the message really comes across. Simply delivering a message isn’t enough.
4- Say what you want instead of what you don’t want. When you say something like: “I don’t want to be fat anymore” I don’t want to be stressed”, you are promoting the condition you want to walk away from. Instead, you can say: “I want to be slimmer” or “I want to relax”. The sentences have pretty much the same meaning but in the first sentence you are focusing on “stress” or “fat” which are limiting statements. In the second sentence, the words “slim” and “relaxed” promote what you want to become. In the long term, this little change can have a great impact on how you feel about yourself.
The best way to test your communication skills is to learn how you receive and communicate information, and the following little game is a good way to do this:
Let’s see how good of a communicator I am…
The game is simple, I guide you through a drawing and the drawing should reflect, perfectly, the original image. You will check the original image after the game to see how close you got.
You can play this game with other friends, family members, partners and colleagues too to test their natural capacity to give good directions.
Ok read carefully because if you don’t you will make me the bad guide 😉
On a rectangle piece of paper in the portrait position, start drawing a tree in the center of the paper. The relatively thin trunk takes up half the height of your piece of paper. The upper half is almost fully filled with a beautiful cloud shape of thick green leaves.
Even though the trunk is straight and thin, the base is slightly bigger. The trunk divides in 2 smaller trunks or big branches, one on the right, and one on the left. We can see it through the thousands of small but thick leaves.
It is an apple tree, you can tell that because of the 19 apples still on the tree and the 2 apples that have fallen off to the side of the tree (along with some small leaves). The apple that fell to the left side of the tree is closer to the trunk than the apple on the right. There are 3 apples, aligned with the trunk, positioned from the top of the trunk, where the leaves begin, to the top of the tree that divide the tree into tow sides.
On the left, 8 apples are evenly spread and on the right, 8 are also evenly spread, with some slightly hidden by the leaves. (Take a guess which one and let’s hope these are the same ones ).
There are some falling leaves on the left and the right of the tree.
The trunk is dark brown, the leaves are deep green and the apples are almost orange…
When you are done, click below to see the tree I was referring to. It should be close, hopefully 😉