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Good Communication Takes More Than Words

Serena Reep, Ph.D. -- If you want others to really "hear" you, give them reasons to want to spend the time to hear you. Understand how important body language and the tone of the conversation are in relationships, be they personal or business.

Why are we so clueless about how to communicate with others around us?

When it comes to communication, why do we create the path of most resistance instead of least resistance? If you take a survey about what their motto in life is, most people would probably say: "I am a positive person. I always look on the bright side and treat others like I want to be treated."

Right? But what really happens in practice?

Why is there such disconnect between what we say we are about and what we actually do?

Recently one of my friends walked into my office and complained: "Is there anyone on the face of the earth who has not heard of Dale Carnegie, or has not read his book How to Win Friends and Influence Others?"

I asked her what it was all about.

She started to describe her day at work.

"I hate to disagree with you but..." started my colleague. Immediately I knew something unpleasant was going to come out of his mouth. But I braced myself for whatever he was about to say and summoned all the patience I could muster. I listened to him quietly, without any interruptions. The more I listened, the more I realized that there were a lot more things he agreed with than disagreed.

But he did not have the social skills to realize before he started to speak that there were only a few points he did not like. The first things he heard were what he disagreed with and became defensive in his response.

But as he kept talking, he himself realized that there was no reason for him to react so negatively first. By the time the long-winded conversation came to the end, he softened his tone and started to find more acceptable points.

After hearing him out completely and realizing only a couple of things really bothered him, I relaxed and said, "OK, we seem to be mostly in agreement. Let me think about the two good points you raised and I will get back to you...." As I was walking away from his cubicle, I saw that he too seemed relieved about my not reacting negatively to his initial defensiveness.

Let's dissect what just happened here. Because her colleague started with a defensive predisposition, the points of disagreement were like blinking neon signs and he was drawn to them right away. When he did not get a response to justify his defensive tone (i.e., another defensive or offensive response from her), he slowed down and started to feel less threatened.

My friend's willingness to listen to him patiently and not react defensively or make pre-judgment, made him gain his balance back. This is a very important key to good communication. Had she reacted defensively in the first couple of seconds of his conversation, the outcome would have been a battle of the egos about who is right rather than what is right.

If you want others to really "hear" you, give them reasons to want to spend the time to hear you. The body language and the tone of the conversation have to indicate that they have some thing to gain from hearing you out. If there is some "bad blood" from the past that predisposes your audience to expect negative communication from you even before you start, they will hear only what supports their original expectation rather than what your current intentions are. On the other hand, the best way to diffuse the negative expectations of the audience is to surprise them with the unexpected: patience, understanding and acceptance. This will help them gain their positive balance rather than flame the fires of mistrust and miscommunication.


Dr. Serena Reep is an Ex-College Professor, communication and relationship management coach, corporate project management trainer, author, and motivational speaker. She considers herself a social-entrepreneur and likes to promote social causes in all her ventures. Serena Reep received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology. Her specialization is Social Structure and Personality. She also holds an active PMP (Project Management Professional) certification. She frequently speaks on best practices in communication for successful project management as well as successful interpersonal relationship management. Want to know more about how to be more proactive and productive in your relationships and communicate better with others? Want to be understood and appreciated? Subscribe to the free newsletter from Dr. Serena Reep at

© 2009 Serena Reep, Ph.D.

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