Whether you are a teacher or an administrator, creating trust is key to enhancing your ability to communicate effectively. Communication is a tool that we use daily and when we use the right words in the right way, they can work wonders even when things become a bit testy.
Most of us think that we communicate well, but research has shown that we are surprisingly becoming more and more unskilled with the advent of email, texting, and a plethora of social media. We can, however, retrain ourselves to speak and listen in a way that stimulates sympathy and encourages trust in our schools. Here are 5 tips that will insure that you are using the best dialogue possible:
1. Deep breathing and stretching: When things become challenging, stress usually makes us more irritable, which in turn leads to anger. When we are angry, it is hard to communicate effectively. To counteract this, take a deep breath and count to 5. Try flexing your neck or even a fake yawn and you will be surprised how your brain can get back on normal ground.
2. Think positively and re-frame: When tensions rise, negative energy can interfere with your ability to process language. So, re-frame the situation into a positive mode. Instead of letting your defenses rise, which builds leads to distrust, think of 5 positive ideas. This reminds me of the old Burton White study. If you see positive in a staff member or in a student, he will usually rise to the occasion.
In the future, you can seek out that individual and offer a compliment. A single statement can go a long way in order to build trust and cooperation. Let the individual know that you are available one-on-one to further the discussion. A statement made at the end of an interaction lasts a lot longer because it lingers in a person’s mind.
3. Use body language that communicates satisfaction: If a student or a staff member at a meeting challenges you, re-frame it as mentioned in #2 and add a smile. You can state, “I’m really glad that you mentioned that point, even if it counteracts my point. Let’s talk about it.” This will convey a sense of openness, kindness and compassion, even if the other person is used to fluffing your feathers. Don’t be surprised if your reaction softens them and they reflect back with less aggressive body language.
Once the body language of both parties becomes more matched, making direct contact with your eyes lets them know that you really care. Focus on what their facial expression displays: Were they angry, fearful, saddened, disgusted, or surprised, and help them get back on track.
4. Use brevity: Research has shown that our mind can become overloaded quickly. Therefore make your points in a positive manner and then pause. Allow the person to digest the information. Many times, their eyes will focus away from you and will then return when they are ready to move on and listen further. Also, think of cause and effect. For each of your points, be sure to offer how it will affect others.
5. Be patient and listen: Examine how often you allow the other person to speak until finished. You would be surprised to note how all of us have a pattern of interrupting and speaking over others. Train your brain to stay focused on what the other person is saying and how they are communicating the content with their body language. Facial expressions, the way the eyes move, the arms and hands speak volumes. Be sure to digest it all. Frequently, we lose our focus and think of how we are going to craft our response, rather than giving them our full attention and absorbing their information in its entirety.
By using these steps, you will see a change in your one-on-one interactions, in a staff meeting, or in a classroom. Within two weeks, the environment will change creating greater trust and better communication.
Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.
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