It’s no secret: learning how to communicate effectively is the way to healthy and productive relationships – with anyone.
A few years ago, I picked up a book called, Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce. I wasn’t married at the time, but I heard about how the book improves communication skills, and decided to pick it up.
I was growing into a position at work managing about 5 different teams and studying up on effective ways to make these run like well-oiled engines and communication was one big aspect of that.
I figured that the most complex kind of problems in a relationship with anyone is usually those we have with our life partners, so if there was a secret in that book that could save a marriage through all kinds of deep rooted emotional issues, surely it can give you jedi-like tools to use which you could also apply to other areas of your life, like work.
After reading the book I was intrigued and explored new ways of communicating to help any type of relationship, and I picked up a few things along the way.
These are 5 phrases that are my favourite and have worked for me. By saying these frequently to those I regularly interacted with, my relationships just got better and more enjoyable. I found myself lighter and happier.
You too, can start applying these in your relationships, and that includes the one with the people you work with.
You may not be comfortable saying these things at first but after a while it will become easier (and yes, I say these to everyone including no. 5!).
1. What do you need?
If someone is upset about something they are usually wanting to be heard, loved, or validated. So just listen to what they have to say and lend an ear. That will already make them feel better (and try not to be a “Fix-It” – just listen).
If you’re the cause of what’s making them upset, then be open to hearing them out, and don’t get defensive. The goal as a team (and all types of relationships are a team to some extent) is to see solutions not problems, opportunities not obstacles. Manage your emotions, don’t let it manage you.
At the end of the day, every feedback, good or bad, can serve you in a beneficial way. They can either serve as a reminder to indicate you’re on the right track, or be that slap in the face that you need. Listen to what you’re intuition is saying about what you need to learn.
So when someone seems off, just hear them out and say at the end of it, “I’m sorry to hear that/I feel bad that I made you feel that way. Is there anything I can do? What do you need?”
You’ll be surprised how that can change the conversation (and the problem) around.
2. You’re amazing at…
Think about the last time someone told you this. How did it feel?
Can’t think of a time someone told you that…? Well, how does that feel?
Every one loves that feeling of being paid a genuine compliment. Our good ol’ ego never gets tired of that one.
So if you can make someone feel just a little special, do it. You’d be surprised at how it could save someone when they really need it. Keep it up and you’ll be surprise how it motivates and inspires them to be the best they can be.
“You’re amazing at this tech stuff! It’s a foreign language to me, you’re so smart.”
“You’re amazing at remembering birthdays and making sure everyone is happy.”
Something. Anything. If you find it hard at first, just pay closer attention and you’ll spot a shining quality soon enough. Express it and you have the power to light someone’s day.
3. I appreciate when you…
Most human beings are good. We all mean well. And a lot of times we’re trying, but not everyone sees that. But we want them to see, because the things we do for people are our Love Language. It’s our way of showing them we love them in some form or another. We have a love language at home, at work. (Read more about that here.)
Usually, when we love one way, we assume others love the same way. And then, we expect them to reciprocate love to us the same way we give love to them.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Because everyone has a different love language, we don’t always recognize things outside our own love language – so its very easy to miss gestures of kind from others.
But think about it – have you ever been upset/distant from someone because you felt at the time that they didn’t appreciate something you did for them? If you’ve felt that way, then all the more reason to understand why you should not miss the opportunity to express appreciation for others.
Expressing appreciation can make anyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
You must be thinking, “But what if that person has never appreciated the things I’ve done for them, how can I appreciate something about them?”
Always be the bigger person. Do what is right, not what is easy.
At first, it will be hard because you’ve never tried to do so before. But keep at that muscle, the more you try, the stronger and easier it gets.
Start with something small, “I appreciate it when you’re punctual” for example. That will set off a chain of events that will just make seeing the beauty in everyone possible.
Which leads me to…
4. The beauty I see in you is…
I learned about this phrase through the company I work for, Mindvalley. Every year at our team retreats, we go through a series of appreciation and gratitude exercises for each other.
One of the exercises is called, “The Beauty I See in You”.
In the exercise, with everyone in on their feet scattered in a hall, we walk up to anyone we want to express appreciation for, hold their hands (if you want) and look them in the eye and say, “The beauty I see in you is…” and then we add what that quality is.
I’ve said things like:
“The beauty I see in you is your ability to light a room when you walk in, and make everyone around you shine.”
“The beauty I see in you is that no matter how hard things may get for you, you take it on with strength and you never fail to share your beautiful smile and energy with us.”
I’ve seen people cry (of course I’ve cried at these too!) – some people are surprised by what you say, and are immensely touched. I too, was surprised by some of my qualities that people loved and appreciated. I didn’t know it meant anything to anyone.
I was also surprised how good I felt after telling everyone how beautiful I thought they were.
Through an exercise like this that embraces such vulnerability, bonds are made and relationships are strengthened.
So lets take this into the real world. Tell the people you care about what the beauty you see in them is.
5. I love you
Three very famous simple words – but words that are sometimes so hard to say for many of us.
Essentially, everybody wants to be loved. No one will deny that. So why is it so hard for us to say that to each other? Knowing that someone loves you can open your heart and make you feel extreme joy.
So why not say that to someone today?
If you’re afraid the recipient will be surprised to hear this from you or if you’re the one who’s not comfortable saying it, just remember trying something new and different is always hard at first. But the more you say it, after a while, love will break any wall anyone has up. You will also be surprised which walls of your own you end up tearing down in the process.
Make it a routine to let the people you love know you love them (no matter who they are) and you will experience immense joy in your relationships. It’s oh-so delicious and fulfilling.
So anytime you’re in a relationship rut, try the above 5 phrases and see if it helps.
Through this process, it has made me realize how the use of language is a beautiful and also powerful thing – it can lift someone up and it can also tear them down. And when people feel happy and safe around you, then your relationship with that person will be at peace.
But if you want to master the art of effective communication, you need to be prepared to do the work. Our mind and how we think, works like a muscle. Do the work, you get stronger, don’t do the work, you don’t get anywhere and sometimes you just get worse.
You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Today forth I will be the best communicator there ever was.”
You have to set a goal. It will take practice. There will be old habits to break. You will have up and down days. You’re going to not want to always process what you think before speaking and will believe you should be allowed to speak your mind as and when you please.
But every day you have to keep at it, making certain words a regular part of your vocabulary; thinking about what you should say versus just reacting; learning how to process your thoughts so you can experience healthy emotions versus reactive negative emotions.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.” Epictatus
Do you have other key phrases that can help a relationship? Share them with us – let’s see how many we can gather!