Five things I wish I knew earlier about communication

We all underestimate the importance of communication. Communication is how we interact with the world. All we have are other people’s words to go off of in understanding what others are thinking, which is why it’s important to communicate the right sequence of words. I use the following five tactics as much as I can when communicating.

1. Using the right coordinating conjunctions

A coordinating conjunction is a word used to connect two ideas together. The coordinating conjunctions are “for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and, so”. I find that when conveying a point using the right coordinating conjunction can make the biggest difference.

For example, there’s the classic “use ‘and’ over ‘but’” tactic. Both words convey the same idea; however, “but” negatively implicates while “and” does not. See the difference here:

I went to the bank, but I forgot to pick up the checks.
I went to the bank, and I forgot to pick up the checks.

Both are nearly identical. However, the latter option helps you keep face as a communicator.

2. Powerless communication

When trying to have my ideas heard in small groups where someone is dominating, I use words like “maybe,” “might”, and even “um.” By adding these qualifiers, I communicate that I’m trying to help our group rather than trying to dominate it.

“We should consider this other strategy for the backend.”
“Maybe we should consider this other strategy for the backend?”

The latter sentence is much more favorable when proposing a new idea in small groups. For the record, this strategy isn’t applicable everywhere. For example, don’t use these words when giving a speech. However, do use them when you initially join a group and are trying to have your ideas heard.

3. Use the words “perceive”, “feel”, and “seems"

Three words that my friends recommended to me are the words “perceive,” “feel”, and “seems.” All these words signify that you are talking about your emotions, rather than what may be factual. Telling a roommate “I feel like you don’t care about the cleanliness of our home” rather than “you don’t care about the cleanliness of our home” makes it easier to have a dialogue. It’s impossible to argue with how you felt.

4. Signify you are listening

And listen more than you speak. Communicating is a two-way street, and effectively communicating is letting the other person know that you care about both directions. By asking particular questions like “why do you believe ___ to be true?” and “So you are saying that ___?” are great ways to both a) demonstrate that you are listening and b) understand the other person better.

5. Ask others for things you want, rather than what you don't want

When you are working with someone else, emphasize the things that you want from them, rather than what you don’t want. When you request things you don’t want, you’re negatively implicating your request, which makes it harder for the other person to do the thing you actually want. For example, a professor wants his/her students to know a concept. Rather than requesting the students not to use their laptops, he/she should ask that the students pay close attention to the following information.

Huge thanks to Cliff Weitzman, Aneesh Pappu, Chris Barber, and Simar Mangat for reading drafts of this.

If you have tips that you like to use to communicate, leave a comment/response!