Want to change your life in 2014? Change the way you communicate. Geoffrey Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating, shares ten pragmatic communication strategies to help you get more of what you want, personally and professionally, in the coming year.
Instead of considering the usual subjects for New Years resolutionsweight, exercise, appearance, and so onwhy not focus on something a bit different this year? asks Tumlin, author of the new book Stop Talking, Start Communicating. Make 2014 the year you commit to improving your communication and watch positive consequences ripple throughout your life. Good communication = good relationships = good life. The most effectiveand often the easiestway to reduce the gap between the life we have and the life we want is to change our communication for the better.
Communicationgood or bad, effective or ineffective, healthy or dysfunctionalis how we make our life, he adds. One conversation at a time, well create our reality in the new year. And while we cant control everything that happens to us, we can control our words.
Here, Tumlin shares ten communication resolutions to help you get more of what you want, personally and professionally, in the new year:
- Talk like every word counts. While words can build relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort, a thoughtless tweet, or a hasty remark canand doesland people in hot water all the time.
- Listen like every sentence matters. The digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but, ironically, made it harder for anyone to listen. Theres just too much communication junk getting in the way. (Just consider the frenetic activity happening on Twitter at any given moment!) To make the most of our conversations, we need to reestablish listening to prominence.
- Act like every interaction matters. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesnt seem to care. And it doesnt take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye-roll to make someone feel like what shes saying just doesnt matter. We cant afford to be the eye-rolling scowler who tosses cold water on people and conversations in 2014.
- Expect less from communication technology and more from people (including yourself). Because technology does a lot for us, its no surprise that weve collectively fallen in love with it. But in our enthusiasm for what our tools can do, weve lost sight of the people behind the tools. Its time to turn that around. Our devices dont possess the communication abilities we think they do.
- Dont always be yourself. (Careless self-expression is usually an excuse for bad behavior.) I was just being myself sounds harmless, but its often an excuse to indulge in destructive behavior, points out Tumlin. One single actionnot allowing your feelings to dictate your wordswill impact your quality of life profoundly in 2014: You will get what you want more often. By focusing on what you want to accomplish instead of what you want to say, youll keep your conversational goal in its rightful placeabove your feelings in terms of priority.
- Question your questions. Most of us have poor questioning skills because we dont think twice before blurting out a query. But questions arent insignificant; they are powerful communication tools because they change the trajectory of a conversation. As youve probably noticed, questions often make conversations worse. Even simple inquiries can go awry. Is your mother coming over for dinner again? or Did you call Jim in accounting about this? can cause trouble if the other person thinks theres a criticism behind the query.
- Dont put out so many fires this year. Our quick, cheap, and easy digital devices allowed us to have far too many unnecessary conversations in 2013, engage in way too much unnecessary collaboration, and get our hands (and thumbs) on too many irrelevant issues. Thats why smart communicators, like smart doctors, have a good triage systemits categories are Now, Delay, and Avoidto focus on the most pressing issues, while delaying or ignoring less important matters.
- Let difficult people win. Jane talks too much. Jim is incredibly stubborn. Uncle Billy loves to argue. Your client is moody. Whether theyre controlling, critical, or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person tend to spark frequent confrontationseven though were unlikely to influence these people. For example, we wrestled with Jane many times last year to get a word in edgewise. Weve struggled to change Jims mind dozens of times. We fired a barrage of points and counterpoints into Uncle Billys arguments every time we debated himwhich was every time we saw himlast year. And weve tried to offset our clients mood swings ever since we won the account. This year, its time to quit trying, insists Tumlin.
- Give weakness a chance. In 2013, we often used more force than we needed to accomplish our objectives. We yelled when a measured response would have worked better, we sent a blistering e-mail when a more restrained reply would have sufficed, and we issued an ultimatum when a firm but gentle statement of convictions would have been successful. The problem with that approach is that conflicts that start or escalate with excessive force frequently cause a destructive cycleattack, retaliation, escalated attack, and escalated retaliation, etc. No matter how justified we may feel, the bottom line is that using excessive force isnt usually a winning strategy. Our results from 2013from the times that we overreacted to perceived slights and conflictbear this out.
- Be boring. Modern culture promotes the false notion that communication should be as flashy, stimulating, and entertaining as the sleek devices that facilitate it. We assume that the best conversations are also the most exciting ones: the ones that are intense or high stakes, that bring big news, that are filled with emotion, or that contain something unexpected or novel. But look back on the exciting conversations you had in 2013: They were relatively rare and often didnt go your way. In reality, good, meaningful communication usually looks plain, unremarkable, and boring. And guess what? Thats okay.
How you choose to communicate will be a major deciding factor in how your year goes, professionally and personally, concludes Tumlin. To get more of what you want in 2014, improve your communication, and the positive changes in how you interact with others will cascade resoundingly throughout your life.