Honing Your Communication Skills, Part 2
- Monday, April 21, 2003
Quality of life. We all strive for it. We plan for it. After 35 years of seeing patients as a psychologist, I have decided that there is one central factor that is germane to your quality of life. With it, doors will open, people will feel connected to you, relationships will flourish, and life will have more meaning. Without it, you become more isolated, less happy and influential.
Your ability to communicate is the key to your quality of life.
In part one of this series we examined the four traits are needed to be a great communicator. They are:
1. You need to be able to access you innermost thoughts and feelings.
2. You need to be able to identify and verbalize these thoughts and feelings.
3. You have to be able to accurately understand what another person is saying.
4. You need to be able to make conversations as personal as possible.
Now I'm going to give you a concrete plan for realizing these traits.
I want you to simply have one hour a day that you give to becoming a first-class communicator. One hour a day for 70 days. Are you willing to do that? If you're willing to do this, then here are some ideas about how you can accomplish some things that will make you a great communicator.
1. Go out today and buy yourself a journal. Right now. It needs to have a lot of pages in it. I carry a journal around with me all the time. I have one right now. It has about three, four hundred pages in it, and I want you to buy a journal like that.
I want you to spend 20 minutes each day, exactly 20 minutes, writing in that journal about whatever it is you're thinking and feeling at the time. Don't take your pencil or your pen off the page. Just write for 20 minutes. I don't want you spending longer than that; just 20 minutes to think on the page about what you're feeling and thinking at any given point in the process.
2. Sign up with the very best person you can find for 10 sessions of counseling. This doesn't have to be expensive, it certainly doesn't need to be a psychiatrist or even a psychologist. It can be a marriage counselor. It can be the minister of your church. I want you to sign up for exactly 10 one-hour sessions.
3. Find yourself three partners with whom you can talk for one hour each week for 10 weeks. If they say, "What do you want to talk about?" Tell them, "I'm trying to become a better communicator and I want to talk about anything you want to talk about or I want to talk about or we want to talk about. I just want to talk to you for an hour a week in an effort to build my own communication skills."
I want each of these meetings to be built on what I call the Rogerian format. You talk for 30 or 60 seconds, or they do, it doesn't matter who starts, and then the other person puts into their own words what they have heard the opposite person say. They labor at getting it right until the person who made the original comment says, that's right. That's it. You understand. And then the person who labored at understanding gets to speak for 30 or 60 or 90 seconds. Keep these comments relatively short. After which, the other person labors to fully understand.
What we know about great communication is that both people will feel deeply heard and understood and so we want to build that kind of format in which you begin to really understand another person. Now, what I have to tell you is that sometimes in these one-hour talks, more time is spent trying to understand what the person has said than in actually saying new things. Stay at it.
Once these meetings are over consider the results in your journal. Did you do a pretty good job at understanding what they said? Are you getting better at understanding the deep thoughts and feelings that another person projects? How did it feel when the other person accurately understood you, and how did it feel when they didn't accurately understand you?
4. At the end of 10 weeks, write a final report in your journal. I want you to assess where you think you have made progress and where you still need to work. I want you to ask yourself, "What do I still need to do to become a great communicator?" I want you to commit yourself to doing exactly what I've said in the next 10 weeks.
If you will make this effort for 70 days, I guarantee you will be a far better communicator. If you're a far better communicator, I guarantee every relationship you have will be a better relationship for you and if you're searching out the love of your life right now, let me encourage you. Get to be a better communicator and you will become maximally attractive to that other person. There is no other quality in a romantic relationship that so binds you together as the quality of good communication. You get to be good at communication and your relationships on the romantic level will become so much better. I promise.
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