Five Simple Communication Strategies For Improving Your Relationships

Five Simple Communication Strategies For Improving Your Relationships

In my opinion, the most important life skills that we can learn is how to communicate. It’s a skill that we can use in almost any situation.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t taught how to communicate.

Instead, we learn how to communicate through osmosis. We learn by watching and imitating others – our parents, our friends, TV and movies.

The problem is that most of them don’t really know how to communicate either. At least not in a way that leads to authentic communication. Not in a way that leads to healthy, quality relationships.

So if we want to improve our communication skills, if we want to improve our relationships, we’re left to our own devices. The great news is that communication is a skill just like any other.

We can learn how to communicate just as we can learn anything else. Through practice and repetition.

Below are five simple communication strategies that you can use to improve your relationships.

Pause Before Responding

Pausing before responding is a particularly useful strategy when you’re having a difficult or contentious conversation.

When someone stops speaking, we often feel that we have to jump in right away with our response. But our initial response normally comes directly from our ego.

Next time, instead of responding immediately, wait one second, two seconds, five seconds, before responding. You might be surprised with how your response changes during that pause.

Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

If you’re familiar with Steven Covey’s bestseller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, then you’ve seen this phrase before.

Unfortunately, we often approach communication with the opposite intention.

We want the other person to understand us. We see our own perspective as correct and the other person’s as flawed.

We expect that once they understand our perspective, they’ll magically change their perspective. Instead, the opposite often happens. Both parties become more entrenched in their positions.

Instead, begin by focusing on better understanding where the other person is coming from. Use phrases like:

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • That’s interesting but I’m not sure I understand.
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share about this?

Check In For Understanding

We often assume that we understand the other person’s perspective. But rather than assuming, we’d be best off making sure that our assumptions are correct.

The best way to do this is to simply ask the other person. Paraphrase what they’ve said and then ask them if what you’ve said is what they wanted to communicate.

Use Tentative Language

We have a tendency to present our opinions as if they’re facts. This only leads the other person to become defensive.

Instead, use tentative language. Introduce your ideas and opinions using phrases such as:

  • I could be wrong about this…
  • It appears that…
  • I’m not exactly sure about this….

You get the idea. You can play with these to come up with phrases that resonate with your style of speaking.

Remember That Words Can’t Harm You

Children are fond of repeating the phrase: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

As adults, we tend to forget this wise advice. If someone says something we don’t like, or something we don’t agree with, we feel that we have to respond.

But we don’t.

If you have a healthy self-esteem, you’ll realize that other people can’t hurt you with their words.

Let them say whatever they want about you. Be strong in your knowledge of who you really are. And recognize that anyone who says something negative about you is probably having a bad day and dealing with their own issues.


When it comes to improving our communication, this post is just the beginning. I plan on writing additional posts with additional simple communication strategies.

If you want to incorporate any of these strategies into your life, my suggestion is to pick one and practice it for about 30 days. Once you feel you’ve mastered that strategy, and it’s become a regular part of your communication, then you can add another one,

One final note: while my post focused a bit on challenging and contentious situations, many of these strategies can be used in any communication situation.

Happy communicating!

Weekend Reads: Wisdom From Around The Web

Weekend Reads: Wisdom From Around The Web

I’ve decided to start a new weekly feature in which I highlight useful posts from around the web. I’ll typically highlight 3-5 posts a week. You can obviously pick and choose which ones you want to read.

I hope you find this new feature useful.

It Is In Giving That We Receive — Purpose Fairy

A short 3 minute video that shows that power of giving and how we never know what positive effects our actions will have. Highly recommended!

Simple Ways To Live HappyThe Bridgemaker

A two part series that highlights some simple, effective ways that we can all be happier. The first part can be accessed through the link above. The second part is here.

The Latte Factor: 8 Ways We Overspend — Becoming Minimalist

A guest post from Lama Farran, a Certified Money Coach, highlighting the most common ways in which we tend to overspend. I’m surprised that cell phones didn’t make the list!

How To Heal From Heartbreak And Allow Love Into Your Life — Tiny Buddha

You might remember that I recently had a guest post published about how to recover from a broken heart. Here’s a post on Tiny Buddha that covers the same topic with some of the same ideas as well as some new ideas.

If you have a moment, leave a comment and let me know which was your favorite!!!

4 Simple Reasons For Saying Yes To Other People

4 Simple Reasons For Saying Yes To Other People

Recently I received an email from a friend via Facebook. Actually, this person qualifies as a Facebook friend – one of those people you met briefly and who is now part of your Facebook network, even though you don’t know the person very well.

My Facebook friend was someone who I met on a tour in Budapest a few years ago. In the intervening time, we’ve had very little contact.

Her email was the type that you send to everyone you know. A fishing expedition of sorts. She was seeking donations for an upcoming fundraiser in which she’s participating.

Given our limited connection, you might assume that I said “no” or perhaps ignored her request. And you’d be completely wrong! Of course I made a donation!

Saying no would have violated a simple rule that I try to live my life by. When someone asks me for help, I do my best to respond in the affirmative.

Why I Say Yes

I don’t want to go into a lot of details here. But there have been times in my life where I’ve reached out to family and friends for support for something that mattered to me.

And in response, I’ve always received at least some support. And sometimes I’ve received lots of it.

At the same time, the number of family and friends who failed to respond, who simply ignored my request, has always been much greater than the number who responded positively.

Leaving me to wonder why.

Did the person not receive my message? Was our relationship not as important to them as I had thought? Did I catch them at a bad time?

I don’t want to be that sort of person. I don’t want to leave others wondering what happened, wondering why I didn’t respond.

I want to be the type of person who says yes, no matter how well I know the other person.

Let me give you four reasons why you should consider saying yes the next time someone asks for your help.

1. Saying Yes Feels Good

Let’s be honest, giving to others feels good! Of course, it doesn’t have to be money. We can say yes to others in lots of ways – for example, giving our time, giving words of encouragement, or giving a hug.

2. Saying Yes Builds Connection

Once I filled out the donation form and clicked the button, I immediately felt a stronger connection with my friend. We’ve since exchanged several messages over Facebook, furthering the connection.

I didn’t have to make a donation but I’m glad I did. Before my friend was just a “Facebook friend”. Now, I feel that we have a stronger link, a stronger connection, a connection that we can build on in the future.

3. Saying Yes Builds Reciprocity

I don’t say yes to other people’s requests because I want to or expect them to help me out in the future. And yet, the more we say yes to others’ requests, the more likely they’ll be willing to say yes to ours in the future.

4. Saying Yes Tells Someone They Matter

For me, this is the most important reason to say yes to other people. The message I’m sending them is “yes you matter to me and what’s important to you is also important to me”.

Saying Yes By Saying No

Of course, having the intention of saying yes doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every request you receive. Some will be unreasonable. Others you simply won’t be able to fulfill, for one reason or another.

If you can’t fulfill someone’s request, you can still let them that you’ve received their request, that you can’t fulfill it right now, but that perhaps some time in the future you’ll be able to help them.

In that way, you are still saying yes! You’re saying yes to the relationship and telling the person they matter to you. In the end, what could be better than that!

Recovering From A Broken Heart

Recovering From A Broken Heart

A few of you have already seen this article, but I wanted to share it with the rest of you. It’s my most recent guest post.

This one was published on Finer Minds and is called “How To Recover From A Broken Heart.”

You can access the article by clicking here.

(BTW, I’ve been ill much of this week so will return to regular blogging next week).

4 Ways To Inspire Greatness In Other People

4 Ways To Inspire Greatness In Other People

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

My fiance is a biologist who works on environmental projects with adolescents and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. Last weekend she told me about problems she was having with one of her groups of students.

A few days later, she told me she solved the problem by threatening to remove the students from the training program. Suddenly these students who had been disobedient a few days ago completely changed their behavior.

My fiance told me that threats were the only thing that would work with these students, that based on their backgrounds, it’s the only thing they would respond to.

I have my doubts. Fear can be a great motivator but does it really last? And aren’t there more positive ways to reach people?

I’m not trying to be critical of my fiance. I know she’s doing the best she can under challenging circumstances. And I have no idea if I would do any better under the same circumstances.

Still, I ultimately believe that we can and should try to reach and influence people from a positive mindset. That lasting change and influence comes from positive life affirming interactions with others.

You don’t have to be a teacher or a parent or a supervisor to positively influence others. We all the the opportunity to inspire greatness in others, to inspire them to lead meaningful lives.

But how do we do that? Here’s what I came up with.

Expect The Best From Other People

People often give us exactly what we expect from them.

You’re probably familiar with the research study involving first grade teachers. Before the start of the school year, the teachers were told which of the students were high performers and which were low performers.

At the end of the school year, the high performers did much better on an IQ test than the low performers.

Except the teachers had been lied to. The truth is that there was no difference between the groups of students at the beginning of the year. The teachers ended up creating the IQ differences between the two groups based on how they treated them.

Subsequent research studies have confirmed just how powerful expectations are.

If you want to inspire greatness in other people, then treat them as if they’re already great. Expect the best from others and that’s exactly what they’ll give you. Expect the worst from them and you may be the one who ends up suffering the consequences.

Learn To Give Positive Feedback

Several years ago, I returned to school to work on an elementary education teaching credential. During our student teaching, we were required to have a number of our lessons observed by an experienced teacher. Afterwards, the teacher would give us feedback on our lessons.

I was lucky. The woman who observed my lessons was a genius at giving feedback.

Here’s what she would do. After the lesson, she would first ask me what I did right. Of course, as a typical self-critical person, I would struggle with this. So she would often step in and give me a long list of things that I did right.

What she would do next was amazing. She would tell me “Now here are some suggestions for things you can do next time to make the lesson even better.”

Why is that genius? Notice her careful use of language. There’s absolutely nothing negative or critical in her words. Nor is she telling me what I have to do or what I should do. She’s making a suggestion for improvement.

And after having built me up with lots of positive feedback, do you think I was ready and willing to listen to her suggestions and take them to heart? Absolutely!

We have opportunities to give feedback to others all the time. My suggestion is to do it in a way that builds them up, and that inspires them to make positive changes, that inspires them to greatness.


As a life coach, one of the most powerful tools I have is the intention to truly and deeply listen to my clients. If you’ve ever experienced true, authentic listening, you know how powerful it can be.

The ability to truly listen to others ins’t something you’re born with. It’s a skill. It’s something you can learn.

If you want to truly impact someone for the best, if you want to inspire them, learn the skill of listening. No doubt you’ll be giving them one of the best, most valuable gifts of their life.

Live Your Life As An Example

You may have heard the story of the mother who brought her son to Gandhi because he was eating too much sugar. She wanted Gandhi – his idol – to convince him to stop. But all Gandhi did was to tell the mother to come back in two weeks.

The mother did as instructed and two weeks later Gandhi directly told the boy to stop eating sugar. The boy promised he would change his behavior.

The mother was obviously perplexed as to why Gandhi made her wait two weeks. Gandhi looked at her and said “Two weeks ago I was just like your boy, eating too much sugar.”

No one listens to a hypocrite. If you want to inspire greatness in others, then become great yourself.

And by the way, greatness doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary. Greatness is about being authentic, about leading a meaningful life, about leading a life of significance. Greatness is about how you treat those around you.

Inspire others based on your own life, your own actions, your own words and deeds. Become the type of person that you want others to be.


I’ve never met my fiance’s students. I’m sure that many of them come from challenging backgrounds. And I’m sure that many of them aren’t easy to deal with.

I imagine that you have similar people in your life. My suggestion is to not give up on them. Instead look for a way to inspire the greatness within them, the same greatness that is within you.