6 communications skills you need to succeed

The ability to communicate effectively and thoughtfully empowers each of us with skills for greater happiness and success. While communication can be learned and refined over time, it is important to remember that we have been picking up communication experience from the beginning of our lives, when we moved around and kicked in the womb—as if to announce, “I’m here!”

Born to communicate

Ask any woman who has ever been pregnant, and she will immediately recall her delight at the sensation of receiving that first message from her unborn child. When we are born, we cry. Our first verbal communication with the world says, “It’s cold, and the lights are too bright!”

From our first breath, we are trying to communicate: I am here. I exist. These are the same fundamental desires we all carry with us throughout our entire lifetimes. As we grow, our caregivers help us refine the way we ask for things, and hopefully, teach us how to communicate clearly, speak and listen effectively, and learn to balance the needs and wants of ourselves with the needs and wants of others.

Going from so-so to dynamic

While trying to learn effective skills to communicate, we succeed and stumble along the way. As kids, we demand and react. As teenagers, we push boundaries and act out, and higher thinking and advanced communication skills come into play as we learn to negotiate with our parents and teachers.

Over time, our communication style becomes influenced by our friends, bosses, intimate relationships and co-workers. As an adult, you have probably settled on a communication style you are comfortable with. Now, I want to encourage even more growth and suggest that you go from good to great—from being a reasonably effective communicator to a dynamic communicator! (Take this quiz to find out what kind of communicator you are.)

Dynamic communication is an ever-evolving art and is the ability to consciously interact and react thoughtfully. Once you get past the baseline of basic talking, everything else can be learned, practiced and improved throughout your life. If you practice these skills enough, they will become part of who you are. Dynamic communicators are more thoughtful; they have very little conflict in their lives, and they get more of what they want out of every situation and relationship because they’ve mastered how to get it! Now, doesn’t that sound appealing?

The skills you need:

  • • Recognize that how you communicate sets the tone for how the world sees you and treats you.
  • • Learn to respond consciously. Think before you react.
  • • Listen to your grown-up voice, logic and rationale and refuse to allow your past history to influence your present behavior.
  • • Keep yourself—and others—in check. Apologize, walk away and take the higher road for good.
  • • Don’t bring up 20 things that happened in the past—with anyone. Focus on the here and now, and move forward.
  • • Care more about the long-term outcome than you do about the immediate gratification of being right.

Gifts of the dynamic communicator

Life, unfortunately, is full of intense, high-drama situations where even the best communicators are put to the test—not to mention the small day-to-day annoyances such as rude waiters, indifferent salespeople and sarcastic co-workers. As dynamic communicators, we must be alert to the red flags in ourselves and others that might lead us down the road to a bad experience.

What I’ve noticed in years of counseling clients is that a common hindrance to dynamic interaction is the need to be right. You have to care more about the long-term outcome than you do about the immediate gratification of being heard, being louder, winning, getting the last word or being right.

A dynamic communicator lets go of the need to win. The real winning comes from a successful relationship, not scoring points. You want to win the war, not fight endless battles. Ultimately, dynamic interaction leaves both people walking away feeling satisfied or happy. One or both may have compromised during the process, but neither is walking away upset, hurt or feeling that he got short shrift.

A dynamic communicator knows when the time has come for that long overdue talk or when to walk away and cut communications altogether or which tool to employ along the way so it doesn’t come to either of those extremes. If you don’t know which tool to use, you can certainly say, “I need to think about this.” Then talk to friends, reflect, get advice and then get back to the person you want to speak with.

Better communication means closer relationships

In the end, when you have worked on becoming a dynamic communicator, learning to interact thoughtfully and effectively with others, you will find that the road to happiness is smoother and easier to find. And, as an added bonus,you’ll have relationships and dialogues that are deeper, more meaningful and significantly more satisfying.

From the April 2014 issue of Live Happy magazine.