By Eugenia Tripputi
"Talk to Me, Iâ€™m Human!" Have you ever felt like telling
(or worseâ€”yelling!) this or a similar phrase to your boss, a coworker,
or significant other with whom it seems impossible to have a conversation?
In a world that prides itself for its advances in technology, we
have surely gone backwards in some areas of communication, namely
forgetting to use "the basics." I have found that we usually
have no problems IMing (instant messaging) a cousin or brother across
the planet but freeze up or utter the wrong words when we have to
express ideas, confront conflict, or resolve interpersonal issues
with the person working two cubicles down from ours.
But, do not despair; there is help! Remembering some fundamentals
of conversations is a wonderful beginning, and you can be the initiator
No matter what title or personality style, people like
to be talked withâ€¦ Regardless of the actions individuals
exhibit, we are adults â€”even if sometimes we do not behave as such.
And each of us has a responsibility to make dialogue happen in a
Talk withâ€”not to or downâ€”other people on a regular basis,
even if it means saying "hello" every morning. Developing
relationships, building trust, and establishing good communication
is a process not a single event.
Choose your timing wisely. Allow enough time
and pick a date that is convenient for all the parties involved.
We all have things in our minds, so, get into the habit of checking
with the other person to see if the timing is right.
Select the right place. If this is a work-related
conversation, depending on the tone you want to set, an office or
conference room should be chosen for more formal occasions. Finding
neutral, more relaxed environments where you can minimize territoriality
issues tend to be ideal. Be mindful of privacy and comfort levels
with locations. If this is a personal conversation, opt for the
good, old-fashioned "going out for coffee" strategy. But,
choose a place quiet and private enough to talk.
Have your discussions earlier rather than waiting until
the last minute when it might be too late to address an
issue or too emotionally charged. In other words, get into the habit
of not letting things that bother you fester. Think about it as
a wound. Unless you take care of it immediately, it will be much
harder (or messy) to treat after some time.
Try your best to start your conversation with something
positive, even it is "wanting to resolve the issue
between you." If it comes from the heart and is true, you are
increasing your likelihood of being heard and trusted. If this is
a personal conversation, highlight how important the individual
and the relationship are to you.
Talk to the whole individual, not just "the person
you have an issue with" or "the worker bee."
Humans bring their physical and emotional self everywhere they go.
It is extremely hard to leave the emotions at home or to forget
about work after hours. Honor this fact. In reality, you do not
know what is going on for this person at work or in his/her private
Be clear about what you would like to discuss with this
individual either before or at the beginning of the meeting,
so you can focus on what needs to be resolved and do not go off
on tangents. It is very easy to look for distractions, particularly
for people who are not comfortable talking.
Stop the conversation if you find yourself being distracted,
need to leave, or it gets out of hand. Resuming your talk later
is better than to be rushed or regret something you might say but
Get into the habit of doing most of the listening
and less of the talking. Pay attention to the verbal and
non-verbal cues that the other person has demonstrated in other
occasions as well as during your conversations. Oftentimes people
will say one thing with words but the body language communicates
something different. Remember that over 90 percent of communication
"When in doubt, check it out!" Assumptions
are the worst conversation enemies. When you hear something that
you are not sure about, particularly something that bothers you,
ask the person what they meant or request further clarification.
Do not automatically think the worst!
Intentionally communicate with your whole self.
If you can and know how to do it, match your body language cues
to what you are saying or you risk losing credibility.
Find ways to show genuine interest in what the
other person has to say.
Practice "quieting your mind." You do not have to have
an answer ready at all times. And itâ€™s ok to say, "I donâ€™t
know but Iâ€™ll find out and will get back to you," if necessary.
Humans prefer to communicate in different ways.
These preferences are usually at the core of each individualâ€™s being,
and, oftentimes, he or she might not even be aware of them!
"Know thyself first." We tend to see
the world through our own set of lenses, unless we make a conscious
effort to see things from someone elseâ€™s point of view. This takes
practice and comes naturally to only a few privileged people. The
rest of us need to work at it!
Unless you communicate on the sameâ€”or at least similar wavelengthâ€”it
will be hard to get your messages across and get to a positive outcome
that will produce lasting behavioral change. The effort can start
There is enough pain and suffering to go around nowadays. Think
about it: in the scheme of things, what we tend to be offended or
argue about on a regular basis is very trivial. The next time you
are facing a conversation challenge, pick two or three of these
suggestions and put them into practice. You will be amazed at the
results and how some simple things can have a huge impactâ€”hereâ€”on
For almost 20 years, Eugenia has held several leadership
and managerial positions creating and heading training, professional
development, and human resources programs as well as has consulted
for Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit agencies in the
United States and Latin America. Her educational foundation
includes a Masters degree in Counseling from Seattle University
and a Bachelorâ€™s from California State University, Hayward,
with a degree in Human Development.