Interpersonal communication skills

I imagine that the article about Interpersonal Communication Coaching left unclarity about what some of these skills are and how they can be used to contribute to making your life more wonderful. Fundamentally, these skills fall under the broad category of Emotional Intelligence. Let me enumerate some of these skills, that I use every day, and offer a simple explanation or example about them. I enjoy sharing my understanding and learning more about these skills. If you’re feeling curious, you can schedule a meeting with me.

Note: This is an article that will evolve in the next few weeks. It’s not complete, nor exhaustive.

A simple mental model for difficult conversations

I’ve spent much of my life without a proper mental model for approaching sensitive conversations. The approach that I’ve learned was to avoid and let things cool off (with the occasional, inevitable explosion of frustration). This model brought plenty of unpleasant moments for me and others and a sense of “I don’t understand the world”.
These days I use a better model: the 4 step NVC process. This model allows me to connect to what’s important for me and to make guesses about what might be important for others in any type of conversation.

Interpersonal Communication problem decomposition

When two people communicate, many things are happening in the background: intentions/goals, agendas, expectations, emotions, personal values, assumptions, past experiences, etc. This puts conversations in the complicated/complex problem domain. A powerful way to reduce the complexity of difficult conversations is to apply the principle of problem decomposition: decomposing the conversation into many small independent components. In my experience, this process takes a bit of time, but it makes hairy conversations manageable.

Saying no

Not saying no in a situation where I “hear an internal no” makes me feel resentful and insecure. On the other hand, saying a preemptive no makes me feel lonely and disconnected. There’s a third way, inspired by Nonviolent Communication. In a nutshell, saying no to something means saying yes to something else. Based on this model, hearing a no means that someone is saying yes to something else. When handled with empathy, no is not the end of the dialogue, but the beginning.

Labeling, generalizing, and judging others

One of the conversation skills that I’ll work on all my life as it’s so deeply ingrained in me. When I judge others, I create the possibility of a future when I am judged by others or even myself. For example, I expressed self-judgment about doing a particular task in a meeting. I immediately realized that others doing the same task daily might perceive my self-judgment as a judgment about them.

“Message sent” equals to “message received”

I want to start a dialogue by ensuring that the communication channel is clear (even this is at risk at times with so much online communication nowadays). Next, I want to make sure that I have your attention (from my experience, if you try to talk to me while I was in an intense computer gaming session, there’s a good chance that I won’t be aware of your words). Sometimes, I finish with a check to make sure that the meaning of my message got across to the other. Without this check, I cannot be sure that communication actually happened.

I should/have to/ougth to …

In most situations, when I use words, phrases, or expressions that suggest coercion, I lie and disempower myself. I lie because, always, there’s at least one other alternative to x. I disempower myself because I give up on my capacity to choose for x. As an alternative, I can look at what personal values and needs are satisfied by x. For example, I should go to work today. Alternative: I choose to go to work today because I enjoy the company of my colleagues, and my work today will improve someone’s life.

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