Over the years, through the lens of an extrovert who still likes and appreciates her own space and time, and through experimentation with staying in silence, listening to people differently, and looking at their behaviors, I’ve come to a few humble and simple realizations when it comes to giving people space to be and to express themselves. I’ve also been trying to figure out changes I can make to make communication easier and better. The list below is a mere suggestive opinion that might just help you. Give it a read and see :)
Avoid: Jumping to conclusions about where the person is going with their story. You end up disrupting their train of thought and your conclusions might be incorrect.
Instead: Enjoy the story from their perspective and wait for the person to get to the conclusion themselves. There’s great power in storytelling and when you listen, you respect their version of it.
Avoid: Listening to respond. Many times, especially in arguments, we’re waiting for the person to finish talking just so we can say our own point, and many times we can’t even wait till they’re finished.
Instead: Listen to understand. Try practicing the 5-second rule of silence before you speak. Listen to what they’re saying, understand their point, and see things from their perspective. You might not make the same point that you would’ve made if you didn’t listen to them. Or you might. But at least now you know.
Avoid: Emotional competition. I’ve heard this a million times and I’m sure you did too, Person 1: “I’m so busy and tired this week.”, Person 2: “Oh, not as much as I am!”
Instead: Don’t compete with them or trivialize their feelings. Even if you’re feeling the same way, just allow them to be. Respond instead with understanding, with care, maybe asking how you can help.
Avoid: Misusing relation/examples. Many times, when a person is going through something we previously went through, we tend to bring out the relation and refer back to our own story, turning the conversation about us. People experience things differently and the fact that you experienced this, shouldn’t make their story seem less important or mundane.
Instead: Bring out things that might actually help them. Don’t make the story about you (unless they ask you to tell the whole story) but instead, bring out the right examples of how you dealt with the situation and let them know that that was your own way of dealing with it and it might help them or they might need to figure out their own way. Be there for them and remember how you felt and the kind of support and/or understanding that you needed at that time.
Avoid: Saying things like “I know exactly how you feel.” Even if you’ve been in their shoes, you can never know exactly how a person feels. There are so many other factors that might contribute to how they’re actually feeling.
Instead: Understand that every person is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Ask questions, understand their story, allow them to express their emotions in a safe environment.
Avoid: Assuming that the person you’re dealing with understands how you feel, no matter how close you are.
Instead: Communicate how you’re feeling and help them see things from your perspective. Get it out in the open, talk it through and together get past it.
Avoid: Judging how a person feels.
Instead: Understand that people are different. Their priorities are different and their perspectives are different. We see things as we are not as they are. What’s important to you is different from what’s important to me and that’s okay. Accept one another and allow one another to be.
I hope this helps make your communication easier, your conversations more fruitful, and your perspective wider.