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Here are two communication exercises that can significantly improve the quality of your relationships.
Exercise One: Structured Dialog
What is Structured Dialog? The practice of using mirroring, validation and empathy in a conversation. (From bestselling author Harville Hendrix)
Mirroring — Repeating back what the other person says and developing a principle of curiosity by asking, “Is there more about that?” “Am I getting everything?” “This is what I heard you say…”
Validation — Communicating understanding. Look for points you understand and then say, “I understand that.” When you don’t understand, ask, “I might not be understanding this, can you explain in a different way?”
Empathy — Discussing feelings pertaining to the dialog’s topic. Ask “How do you feel about that?” and be prepared to share how you feel.
What You Need to Know: Structured dialog is something you can do with a co-worker, friend, spouse, family member or someone new you meet. It does not matter how or with whom you start a dialog with. When the practice of structured dialog becomes second nature to you, you can use it to improve all types of relationships. Having one structured dialog a day for three week will significantly improve your communication and understanding. As communicating and relating becomes easier, you will feel more supported, loved, happy and less stressed.
Keep Your Focus On: Asking questions and carefully listening to the answers.
Tips for Getting Started:
Try to have one structured dialog each day that lasts for 15-30 minutes.
Have some topics in mind before starting a dialog. Topics that inspire storytelling work great. Examples: Most meaningful childhood moments — or — What do you like to do and how did you discover this passion?
Use structured dialogs for problem solving conversation.
Experiment with your practice. Observe the difference between conversations where you are practicing structured dialog alone and where you have shared the exercise with the person you are talking to so they can practice too.
The willingness to be curious is what inspires positive social interaction. Invite people to tell their story and once they do, accept the story with removal of judgment and thank them for it.
Learn and practice structured dialoging enough that you can be spontaneous with it.
Exercise Two: Communicate Your Trust Distinctions
What are Trust Distinctions? An understanding of the different factors that contribute to trust building.
What You Need to Know: Trust is vital for any relationship to grow. Trust starts by observing patterns in behavior. You can trust someone is going to be on time after they have showed up more than three times in a row on time. You can trust that someone is an expert in their field after they have giving you useful information several times. You can trust a friend to be a good listener after they have made time for you over and over again when reached out to them to talk. It will most likely to be an awkward conversation if you try to ask someone, “How can I trust you?” before there has been time for any behavior patterns to be observed. However communicating your distinctions of trust and then following up with action to support the distinction is the most effective way to establish yourself as trustworthy.
Keep Your Focus On: Knowing the answer to this question, “What makes me trustworthy?”
Tips for Getting Started:
Make a list of your strengths, interests and roles. Where are you most consistent? What activities do you enjoy? How do you like to help others? Refine and test your list by stated out loud (by yourself) “You can trust me to…” as you hear yourself state strengths, interests and roles circle traits you are 100 percent aligned to and do all the time. These are your trust distinctions.
Trust distinctions come in all forms. Some require discipline like being a good listener, eating healthy all the time or being someone’s mentor. Other trust distinctions take no work at all but help to grow shared experience between people. For example: If you never miss a horror films, make it a habit to tell people “I love horror films!! You can count on me to go with you when the next one comes out.” With one, “You can trust me for…” statement you are making an impression with someone. Communicating distinction of trust creates relational value.
Get in a habit of communicating your trust distinctions all the time but be very careful not to over promise and under deliver. Remember communicating how people can trust you is only one part of the process. You have to follow up with action. If you are not prepared to follow up with action then don’t communicate your trust distinctions until you are sure. Think about it in terms of productivity. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time. Building trust after trust has been broken takes more time and effort and in many cases ends the relationship for many people because the challenge may seem too overwhelming.