One-way communication is useful when we want to provide factual information to a recipient or when we are looking to persuade an audience to gain cooperation. However, outside of business, most of our interpersonal relationships should involve two-way communication.
Otherwise, we end up with bad habits such as: lecturing, yelling, criticizing, blaming, ordering, bossing, nagging, and droning on to a bored audience. These habits can be toxic to relationships, whether it’s with your family, your romantic partner, your friends, coworkers, or a service provider like your doctor.
Whether talking or listening, you will find that there is much you can do to foster two-way communication for better relationships. Often, modeling the practice yourself will encourage others to mirror the same.
Are you giving the right feedback?
As Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, points out, “vulnerability is at the heart of the feedback process” – so providing positive feedback is an effective way of connecting emotionally with another person.
When another person is talking, you can practice positive feedback in the two-way communication cycle by:
- Sitting next to a person, rather than across from them.
- Using nonverbal communication like nodding and eye contact to show you’re engaged.
- Asking questions so you can fully understand the issue.
- Acknowledging what the other person does well.
- Summarizing what you’re hearing.
- Recognizing the other person’s strengths and how he or she could use them to solve a problem.
- Being willing to own your part or responsibility in a disagreement or conflict.
- Holding others accountable without blaming or shaming.
- Discussing growth opportunities through the resolution of the matter.
- Taking ownership of feelings without jumping to conclusions.
It’s important to remember that some people are sharing because they need to “get things off their chest,” they need a sounding board for their own ideas, or they are seeking sympathy and support. Your natural inclination may be to solve these problems, but sometimes less is best. Sometimes a shoulder to cry on or lending an ear is all that is needed and the best approach is to show you are an active listener.
Are you opening the door for two-way communication?
Try these tips in your next conversation:
- Practice the 7 C’s of effective conversation.
- Try talking to people as you are walking or participating in a side-by-side activity.
- Ask the other person directly how they think or feel about what you’ve just said.
- Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no.”
- Focus on the other person, rather than yourself – praising others for their contributions.
- Communicate to express, not to impress – using clear words and avoiding jargon.
- Leave room for the other person to speak with silence or pauses.
- Avoid these communication stoppers.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking to live well and surround yourself with greater positivity, two-way communication will encourage success in all the relationships you’re trying to cultivate.
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