Updated: Sep 6
Effective communication is the key to any relationship, organization, family or school. When details are lost on poor communication, the train is easily derailed. Many years ago my husband started a new job and it was going to be our first time attending their company Christmas party. I falsely assumed I didn’t need to ask any questions once I was given the date and time. The “AFTERNOON” of the event, my husband asked me if he could just wear his suit to a black tie event???? I honestly thought I was going to punch him. At that point HIS outfit was the least of my worries!!! The interesting point of this story is this: at the time he was traveling weekly, we were communicating all day long with texts, emails, and phone calls nonstop. Some would say we were over-communicating. Obviously in this situation, it was not the amount of communication but the type of communication which led to the breakdown.
When trying to communicate effectively the most important skill you can apply to any situation is to focus on your audience. Ask yourself, what do they need to know? How might they receive the information best? What might they need to share with me? Focusing on the needs of the listener, and not your own agenda, will allow the conversation to remain open to dialogue, ideas, and feedback.
Listener focused communication means having the conversation that your audience wants or needs to have. Whether you are trying to communicate with your neurodivergent child, your introverted teenager or maybe even your child’s teacher, here are a few things you should keep in mind when trying to communicate your needs.
1. Swap out volume for consistency
Schools, daycares, and other organizations should concentrate on communicating consistently (same day, same time, same way …) instead of trying to hit every type of platform. Keep your information consistent and reliable, parents will always appreciate not having to search for details. Teach where they should go to find the right information.
When communicating with your kids, keep your messages short and sweet. Long wordy lectures rarely work. Short, direct, low emotion content will connect easier and deeper.
Parents - when talking to schools/daycares, try leading with a question. Kids often have a tendency to unintentionally leave out important facts when reporting to their parents, and sometimes it may even be intentional. Always assume goodwill when engaging caregivers, as most often they mean well and work very hard, so make sure your message is laced with kindness.
2. Body language and tone matter
Slow down, choose your words. Focus on the audience, not the message.
Make sure your tone of voice is inviting, not intimidating
Be kind. Don’t assume or accuse. Lead with a question and not an accusation.
3. Know your audience
Children don’t always have the words to explain their feelings, actions or needs. Slow down and give them time to process your question.
Make sure your questions are short and sweet.
Accept an apology the first time. If the problem continues to occur, ask to help come up with alternative solutions for the future. Help solve the problem, as change is never one sided.
4. Remember that sometimes less is more
Don’t use 10 words when one word will do. People stop listening and tune out if you ramble either in text or in person.
Try to listen more than you talk.
5. Keep in mind - you catch more flies with honey
It’s hard to argue with kindness. Smile and assume goodwill from your counterpart.
Remember that you aren’t in charge of someone else's emotions or reactions. You are not responsible for how they feel.
You’ll never regret being open and kind. You can’t take back nasty comments or a sharp tone. Choose your words and tone wisely.
6. Deliver the message appropriately
Before you hit send, read the email, then ask yourself would this message be delivered better over the phone? Is this message kind and collaborative, or tense and accusatory?
Texting is easy, but teach your kids how important human communication is. Give compliments and solve problems in person, not by text. This will mean the world to your child!!!