We live in a society where strength and power are admired. We look up to people who are successful and are encouraged to be tough, never back down, and go after what we want. While these methods can work in some circumstances, when it comes to communicating they are rarely the best way to be heard. Forceful, overbearing brow-beating may secure you short-term results as people give in to your demands, but they will only sow discord and resentment against you in the long run. This is the case whether you are the boss of your own multi-national company or a student in a class full of your friends and fellow pupils. Getting your point across and being heard is an important skill that you can take with you wherever you go – whether that is work, training, further education, and even into your personal life. Rather than pushing your point home, the key to real successful communication may require a more passive approach.
The problem is that we all want to get our point across and prove our opinions to be ‘right.’ This is the same whether you are talking about which rapper is the best, what TV soap is your favourite, politics, or current affairs. It doesn’t matter what the topic, we all like to have our ideas supported, which is why we often hang around with people with the same opinions as ourselves. Not only does this make it easier for us to get on with each other, but it also makes us feel a bit vindicated in our views. However, we can’t always agree with everyone we meet, which can lead to a discussion or at worst a full-blown argument. The problem is that when we get to the point of arguing we are no longer really discussing anything, but instead just scoring points off of one-another. They’re wrong and you’re right is all that matters, and you stop listening. Instead, wouldn’t it be better to be able to talk things through, be heard and understood, and maybe even open up someone else’s mind to your way of seeing things? While this means that you should try to see and understand the views of others, it could also help you learn something new, or even change your own mind in the process.
So how should you go about getting your point across successfully? After many long, unproductive nights of ‘discussing’ things with various friends and family, I have come up with a few helpful tips that may help you get your point across and be heard, whatever situation you are in.
This may seem counter-intuitive – what use is listening when you are trying to get your voice heard? Listening paves the way for you to be heard. People like the sound of their own voices, and they like talking about themselves or their opinions, so let them talk. Make sure you listen proactively, saying that you understand what they are saying (you don’t have to agree with them, but you can say that you understand where they are coming from or how they came to that conclusion). Showing respect when you listen can help create a bond rather than a divide, as well as making sure that you haven’t misunderstood what someone was trying to say. You might want to think of this part of the process as building up a positive vibe or being karma at work.
- Ask Questions
Make sure to ask questions and get the other person to clarify what they are saying. Try not to be mocking when you do this (even if you want to be). You can ask something like, ‘why do you think that? Or if there is any evidence to support what they are saying. Try to see yourself as a detective trying to uncover the truth rather than seeking to destroy their argument. Questions can also be used in a more assertive manner, so long as you don’t become unpleasant. Staying polite is important while you perhaps ask a question or two that could sow a seed of doubt in their mind. The trick is to question rather than refute. Don’t offer answers, simply leave room for doubt.
- Set Out Your View
Once the other person has spoken you can start setting out your view. You should now have a better understanding of what the other person thinks, which you can now act on. Show evidence to support your ideas if you can, and make sure that you don’t try to coerce anyone into believing you. Answer questions and clarify things if you must, and make sure to be clear that it is simply your opinion. A good tip is to use “I” a lot when you talk, saying things like “I think,” “I feel,” “I believe,” or even “in my opinion.” Even if you can’t change someone else’s mind right away, maybe you can do enough to make them think on what you have said, which may work to change their views over time. Remember getting your point across is different to trying to force everyone to agree with you. You can’t always change how others think, but you can make them pause for thought.
- Don’t Be Rude
This is the most important rule of all. No matter how ludicrous you think the other person is being try not to be rude to them. This means trying not to belittle or mock their ideas or insult them personally. Saying things like “that’s such a stupid idea” won’t help, as they will only serve to create a divide that will block your communication. Instead, you should try to stay polite and understanding.
When it comes to discussion and getting yourself heard a more passive approach is often the best way to succeed. If you look at your discussions not as a matter of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but rather as a process of learning and growth, you should find they are much less adversarial, which means they have more chance of being productive. Effective communication can help reduce stress at work, help you get on better with your friends and acquaintances, or even help when it comes to discussing your career options with your parents!