Guidelines for effective speaking:
- Be honest, but don’t be critical. Strongly disagreeing may only put the other person on the defensive—an emotion sure to disrupt the hope for good communication. You can disagree, but be respectful to keep the conversation from becoming emotional. Say “I don’t know, I think that maybe it’s…” instead of “That’s crazy! What’s really going on is.…”
- Look for common ground. Make sure that your side of a conversation relates to what the other person is saying and that it focuses on what you have in common. There’s almost no better way to stop a conversation dead in its tracks than to ignore everything the other person has just said and launch into an unrelated story or idea of your own.
- Avoid sarcasm and irony unless you know the person well. Sarcasm is easily misunderstood and may be interpreted as an attack on the other person’s ideas or statements.
- Don’t try to talk like the other person, especially if the person is from a different ethnic or cultural background or speaks with an accent or heavy slang. The other person will feel that you are imitating them and maybe even making fun of them. Be yourself and speak naturally.
- While not imitating the other person, relate to their personality and style of thinking. We do not speak to our parents or professors the exact same way we speak to our closest friends, nor should we speak to someone we’ve just met the same way. Show your respect for the other person by keeping the conversation on an appropriate level.
- Remember that assertive communication is better than passive or aggressive communication. Assertive in this context means you are honest and direct in stating your ideas and thoughts; you are confident and clear and willing to discuss your ideas while still respecting the thoughts and ideas of others.
- A passive communicator is reluctant to speak up, seems to agree with everything others say, hesitates to say anything that others might disagree with, and therefore seldom communicates much at all. Passive communication simply is not a real exchange in communication.
- Aggressive communication, at the other extreme, is often highly critical of the thoughts and ideas of others. This communication style may be sarcastic, emotional, and even insulting. Real communication is not occurring because others are not prompted to respond honestly and openly.
- Choose your conversations wisely. Recognize that you don’t have to engage in all conversations. Make it your goal to form relationships and engage in interactions that help you learn and grow as a person. College life offers plenty of opportunities for making relationships and interacting with others if you keep open to them, so you needn’t try to participate in every social situation around you.
“9.1 Getting Along with Others” from College Success by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.