Say what?!

I’m not usually a lucky person. Those who know me well have heard me lament all the times I lost a raffle or missed the winning spot at the elementary school cakewalk (that one’s the worst – I love cake!!). Meanwhile, my husband seems to walk around with four leaf clovers falling out of his pockets. But every once in a while, I hit the jackpot.

Several years ago, before the world of apps and abundance of online resources, I won a piece of software at a conference. It was amazing. The premise was that often times conflict stems from miscommunication. Certain words have a tendency to rub people the wrong way, while others conjure an instant connection. But the majority of it comes back to how we perceive language. Anyway, this glorious prize analyzed language from an email and in turn recommended words that would most effectively communicate with that person. I probably only used it a handful of times, but the concept has stuck with me over the last 10 years.

Keep an open mind
The world is full of personalities with different backgrounds, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses and perceptions. Not everyone thinks or operates like we do. Try to refrain from jumping to the defensive. Nobody is perfect, and painful as it may be to admit, they may have a point you’ve never thought of.

Cut some slack
Let me be clear. There’s no excuse for being hateful. It certainly doesn’t create an environment for productive dialogue. In fact, it will likely accelerate tempers faster than I would have eaten that cake from the cakewalk. But keep in mind that nobody has a 5-star day everyday. We don’t know what someone went through before they fired off that email without thinking it through.

Pick up the phone
There are a multitude of ways to communicate these days – email, text message, messaging apps, social media, snail mail – the list goes on. But as much as I love the written word, nothing beats verbal communication. So much can get lost in a sea of email like tone, emotion, accountability and productivity. Sometimes it’s just time to stop the madness and have a good old fashioned conversation.

Speak their language
Going back to the software mentioned earlier in this blog, try to be respectful of the language your audience speaks. If you constantly seem to butt heads with someone, examine your approach to the conversation. A shift in tone or verbiage could make all the difference.

Know when to walk away.
Honest, productive conversation is a give and take, but sometimes it’s all give for you and all take from the other side. If you made a valiant effort, sometimes it’s best to just let it be.