Communication is a key part of a healthy human relationship and relationships are important in maintaining healthy communities. But for many of us civil discourse is at an all time low. There are messages of conflict and disagreement all around us, it seems as though there is no way to disagree with someone now without an emotional escalation.
Recently, I read about a great initiative the New York Times conducted, where they brought together high schoolers via an online forum to discuss the most difficult topics of our times. The result was a thoughtful and engaging process that provides us with solid lessons on how we can effectively communicate with each other.
A few months back I wrote an article about how you can overcome conflict. Based off this article, and inspired by the recent New York Times initiative, I am outlining some simple actions that will help sharpen our communication skills and help us argue fair.
- When you share personal experiences, come from “I.” We are all entitled to our own truth. Speaking with “I” statements conveys your truth without compromising someone else’s trust in the dialogue.
- Offer data and sources. You can’t state an opinion as a fact; to make a strong argument you must be sure to prove your point. Show a sustainable and realistic solution.
- Speak respectfully. We are all still human beings and are deserving to be spoken to with respect. Speak to people how you would like to be spoken to.
- Further an idea, offer a solution. Communication is not just about discussing your disagreement, it is also about furthering ideas, finding common ground, and problem solving. Focus your comments and arguments on being solution oriented.
- Questions and observations. One way to best understand something is to get more information. Ask questions and make observations about the new information you receive from someone else.
- Have an open mind. We all have different experiences that form our perspectives. Be open to seeing things in a new way, even just for a moment.
- Acknowledge your own bias and perspective. Take stock of your own values and beliefs, why do you have them? How do they inform your worldview?
- LISTEN. The most important communication tool. The best thing you can do in all situations is listen.
- Pick your battles. Not everything is a fight. That is exhausting. Know what is worth arguing about and what you can just let go of.
- Don’t argue angry. Wait until you have calmed down before having difficult discussions.
- Speak to common interests. In all situations, we share common interest. Use those commonalities as the foundation for your conversation. Focusing about what you agree on while help you find solutions.
- Take care of yourself. This is basic. Ultimately it’s about you living a healthy and happy life, full of people who you love. Don’t let conflicts and disagreements get in the way of this. Take care of yourself and those around you, that is always the right thing to do.
We are each other’s future, therefore we must find a way to live together. This is why it is important that we sharpen our communication skills and learn to speak with others who are different than us. It will help us to live together in peace and stability. For further reading on communication skills I recommend reading Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People and these simple ways to disagree agreeably.