|by Joel Feldman
I recently read a quote from folk legend Josh Billings. He is credited
with saying, "It ain't what a man knows what does him in. It's what
he knows that ain't so no more." Ain't it the truth, both for men
and women! Life seems to continually show us that what used to work
just isn't any more. Let's face it, we are imperfect beings, constantly
learning and hopefully improving ourselves. Because of our differences,
we naturally bump into each other's fears, insecurities, and idiosyncrasies.
An essential part of working with others is acknowledging this fact
and learning how to manage the ups and downs of our differences.
This we must do regardless of who we are trying to communicate with.
Communicating effectively is one of the most important skills we
Communication skills are behaviors, attitudes, and methods of communication
that help you relate to, and understand yourself and others. The
benefits of intentionally practicing skillful relating are many.
First, you will feel better about yourself. You will take charge
of your communication, your listening, and your emotional responses.
Second, you will open doors so others can do the same. Most of us
want to feel energized and valuable in all of our interactions. So
by acting and communicating well, you support the possibility that
others might do the same. The third benefit to learning the art of
skillful communication is that you will develop yourself personally.
You will change old and ineffective ways of relating, empower yourself
and others, and learn to accept differences between people. Your
message will have a greater impact with more people more of the time.
Progress and Productivity
Last week I was speaking with a friend and colleague who consults
with organizations. "You know,", he said, "what I'm seeing more
clearly than ever is that the real power to accomplish anything
in organizations flows through the avenue of relationship. And
communication are primary." I was glad to hear him proclaim this.
We've been arguing about it for a good long time. What we're both
seeing is that in many fields, great producers get promoted to
managerial positions based on their technical effectiveness or
productivity. As a manager, the need for effective interpersonal
skills is so great it often becomes a major obstacle to their progress.
I'm no longer surprised when I get a call asking for training or
coaching in this area.
Organizations are created because one person can't get the job done
alone. Thus, we are interdependent upon one another to accomplish
the purpose for which we exist. Because there are varying levels
of buy-in to the mission, or simply because there is a chain of command,
communication and motivation become necessary. When I'm working with
an organization, it's not unusual to hear comments like: "I can't
stand all the finger pointing around here," "They didn't check it
out with us first, so why blame us now?," "He's so cold when giving
me my assignments," "She never told me this wasn't what she wanted,"
"I don't believe anyone will be really honest with me," "Smaller
misunderstandings don't get worked out and begin to feste.". When
there are so many communications that need to happen in one day,
the odds are some just won't. Often the scariest ones are avoided
altogether leading to even greater misunderstanding and fault finding.
Communicating the Tough Stuff
It was once said, "In this life you get to be either right or happy.".
It is worth remembering. Those unfortunate times when we aren't
able to communicate our needs or feelings effectively often wind
up creating anger, resentment, and criticism. Have you considered
that anger and criticism are never effective tools for inspiring
change in anyone, nor do they usually result in long term effectiveness.
Continuous criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling
are sure predictors of emotional negativity leading to job dissatisfaction
and decreased productivity. Communicating well, managing our feelings
and working through conflict are all learned skills, just like
walking and talking. Unfortunately, we don't learn skillful relating
in most schools. You have to learn the skills and practice them
to become the best communicator you can.
From time to time we all have a grievance or complaint about the
way another's behavior has impacted us or our ability to get our
job done. These can flow from an employer or employee, or from the
delivery person to the vice-president. It is necessary in any working
relationship to have conversations with one another about frustrations
and/or needs that aren't getting met. William Blake once said that,
"It is easier to forgive an enemy than a friend." I believe that
is because we expect more from our friends. When we are working closely
with one another, our behavior impacts each other. There has to be
room to discuss the expectations we have and create the possibility
for greater clarity and less disappointment. The art of skillful
feedback is especially important if I am trying to talk to you about
one of your behaviors, which impacts me in a negative way. How else
would we grow and change?
When I got a call from Elaine last winter asking for help with her
communications at work I had no idea what was in store. A successful
financial planner, Elaine had now become the chief operating officer
for a growing investment firm. Much of her time was now taken up
with running meetings, giving presentations and supervising her managers.
The need for constant clarity in her communications was exacting
a terrible toll on her health and well being. She wasn't loving life
back then. Over the next six months we worked on areas like the challenge
of leading group meetings, giving and receiving constructive feedback,
listening instead of reacting and converting frustrations into personal
development. As a result, her anxiety level lowered, she was able
to be more honest with others and the people around her seemed to
become happier as well. That kind of transformation is not unusual
when someone works at it.
Communicating Effectively Comes With Practice, Perseverance
Here are five important communication skills to learn and practice.
Certainly there are more than five, but these will get you started.
1.When you speak, use I statements. As much as you can, talk
about what you think, what you feel, what you perceive, what you
remember and what you imagine. If you speak from the I, it is easier
to stop any blaming you might be doing. You will also take more responsibility
for your own experience, instead of telling others that they make
you feel this way or that way. This is called Responsible Relating.
It helps you make a stand for who you are and what you believe and
feel. It will certainly strengthen you as a person., but you'll have
to be willing to stop blaming others and let go of any victim consciousness
you have going inside you.
2.Listen. Every person in the world has value as a human being.
Every person experiences their reality differently. There is no such
thing as objective reality. We are all unique in our perceptions,
our feelings and our personalities. Make a commitment to slow down
your interactions and listen to the world of the other - no matter
who it is. You will be amazed at what you learn. And you will be
astounded at what happens. Concentrated listening helps solve problems,
builds understanding and appreciation, gives us the opportunity to
walk in another's shoes, and deepens connection.
3. Learn to identify your feelings. Most of us know what we are
thinking. We easily talk about our opinions, judgments, beliefs and
values. What we did not learn at school or from our families was
the skill of identifying our emotions. Part of the reason for this
is that in our culture there are some feelings that are judged more
acceptable than others; for example girls in our society are taught
that crying and frustration is more acceptable than being angry.
Boys are socialized to suppress tears and sadness, but express anger
The truth about feelings is that we all have all of them. If you
can't identify your feelings, you can't choose when, whether and
how to express them. They will leak out or explode in inappropriate
To make it easy you can consolidate the vast array of human emotions
into five categories: SAD (hurt, grief, disappointment etc.), MAD
(annoyance, irritation, anger, rage etc.), GLAD (happy, joyous, content,
satisfied etc.) AFRAID (fear, anxiety, apprehension etc.), EXCITED
(thrilled, ecstatic, rapturous). Next time you have a few minutes,
take a deep breath and try to identify what you are feeling in the
moment. Do this a few times each day and notice how feelings come
and go. They are not permanent, but they are important clues about
who you are as a person.
4.Ask for what you need and want. Don't make people guess. Understand
that needs and wants are perfectly normal. Your particular desires
are part of what make you the unique human being you are. If you
are someone who easily expresses needs and desires, great. Notice
your reactions to getting what you want, as well as not getting what
you want. Do you easily receive and feel appreciative when you are
given to? Do you react or act out when you are disappointed? It is
an art to receive deeply as well as bear disappointment and frustration.
5.Learn the art of giving feedback when someone is doing something
you don't like. This is several step process and involves more explanation.
The art of giving feedback is an essential skill by which you can
clarify goals and expectations, solve problems and resolve conflicts.
It involves sitting down and communicating consciously. It includes
the skills of identifying your feelings, using I statements, and
making requests. It also requires that you have built your ability
to communicate honestly and fairly while working through problems
Practice Makes Perfect
I won't tell you that you can learn and master these skills overnight.
Proficiency takes time: First there is the learning curve of actually
getting the skill down, then there is practice time, when you naturally
feel awkward and clumsy. You may fall back to interacting in your
old ways. After all, the old ways of speaking, listening, or solving
problems will feel more familiar and comfortable. It may not be
easy at first because you are breaking old patterns. You have to
persevere because you know it's good for you, and in the long run
good for building satisfying connections with your co-workers.
You may even want to get some communication or relationship coaching
as you practice and build your comfort level with these skills.
After practicing for awhile, you'll notice you begin to make these
skills your own. You begin to know yourself better and you choose
how and when to express yourself. Relationships at work and at home
are freer and more satisfying. A great comfort and sense of aliveness
accompanies the mastery of communication skills. After awhile they
are not skills, but just your way of being in the world.
All rights reserved. JOEL FELDMAN, CPCC AND KATE FELDMAN, MSW, LCSW
The Conscious Relationships Institute, Durango, CO. www.consciousrelationships.com
JOEL FELDMAN, CPCC AND KATE FELDMAN, MSW, LCSW
The Conscious Relationships Institute Durango, CO
Whether you're single or part of a couple, we're passionate about
helping you create the most fulfilling relationships with the people
you love. We believe the future of humanity depends upon people skillfully
and consciously loving each other and their children. We want to
help end the cycle of generational wounding that gets passed on through
families, communities, nations, and our global family. Specifically,
our approach will facilitate you in experiential exploration of yourself
and educate you in the practice of new relationship behaviors and
We are a couple working on our own relationship. Our relationship
services are based on our personal experimentation and practice.
We promise you a safe, opening and transformative experience in which
to learn and practice the relational skills we share with you.
We have been helping couples, singles, and groups create satisfying
relationships for nearly thirty years. Joel is a certified life skills
coach, couples therapist, mediator and organizational consultant.
Kate is a licensed psychotherapist whose focus is relationship transformation
for couples and individuals. Our background includes Imago Relationship,
Gestalt, and Family systems therapies, as well as EMDR. We were both
founding members of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the largest
residential wellness center on the east coast. Recently we realized
a long time dream of bringing into our lives more adventure, sunshine,
and connection to nature by relocating to southern Colorado from
Please contact us...
Joel: 970-259-7585; Kate 970-259-3424