Communicating can feel frustrating and unsettling when trust hasn’t been established, you don’t have a full grasp on what the topic is, what the elephant in the room might be, or if there may be a trap in the conversation.
You want to side-step falling into a conversational void, but aren’t quite sure what is okay and not okay to talk about. In today’s politicized climate, friends and family can hold different views than you do. The workplace can feel edgy. Simply put, it can feel a little risky to go too far beyond small talk.
How does one navigate what appears to be an obstacle course of communication? First, remember that tolerance of different views is a principle of freedom. Second, aim to maintain a civil, friendly demeanor, as you want others to feel safe around you.
The core of communicating well is listening effectively. It is so important that I always list it first when advising students and clients on communication issues.
Every person needs to feel heard and acknowledged. The tool kit for accomplishing this includes:
Aiming to be etiquette-ful readies you for civility from the get-go. Your intentions lay the groundwork.
Identify and clear up confusion:
If communication barriers seem to be blocking the road, the pause is your most useful etiquette tool. The pause helps in overcoming the feeling that you have so much information to share that you will break if you don’t blurt it out.
Your pausing can help others, too, as it affords the opportunity for calmness, offering time to push emotions to the side and leave room for exploration.
Clarity is essential in meeting your expectation and hope of communicating effectively. Not only does this mean you choose your words carefully. Body language and tone of voice, need to match your words.
Asking for clarification is a useful etiquette skill and is perceived by others as caring and kind, which is solution to many an obstacle. When others perceive you as interested in them, communication obstacles can be overcome.
There may be a proverbial elephant in the room. Being mindful that some topics should simply be off the table for discussion is something to think about.
When communicating feels like an obstacle course, we can remember that we have a responsibility to create “An Etiquette in the Room” in our conversations.