This was first published on ksl.com
I’ve been traveling internationally recently and have had to communicate with many people who don't speak English. Some have given up trying to communicate the moment they realize we don’t speak the same language, while others refused to let the language barrier stop us from trying to understand each other. They act out certain words or look them up on their phones as we try to connect.
This experience has had me thinking about how often we struggle to communicate with others, even when we do speak the same language. We might struggle to understand someone who we are different from, grow frustrated, and give up.
To help with those communication barriers, I'm offering five unconventional suggestions that could help you better handle conversations and conflict with your spouse, friends, coworkers or relatives — especially when your differences make it hard to understand each other.
1. Make sure you treat the other person as an equal
While traveling, I watched many of my fellow travelers treat bellmen, waiters, and other local people as less than them. We might see this happen all around us, but we often miss the ways we do it to our own spouse, children, family members or co-workers.
When you approach a conversation from an elevated position, the other person can feel it and it may affect the quality of the interaction. The first step to improving your conversations is to check your importance and value scale. Make sure you speak to every person as an equal in value and importance. For instance, if you're mad at someone, keep in mind that you, too, make mistakes. When talking to them, treat them as an equal with the same value, no matter their mistakes or differences.
2. Honor and respect their right to be different
We must honor the fact the other people have had different upbringings, different teachers, different experiences, and a completely different classroom journey in life. It's no wonder they think differently and have different views. You must honor their right to have those views and to have their views respected. You don’t have to agree with them, but you should be willing to hear them — without judgment — if you want to improve your conversations.
When your family members or coworkers, think differently, try asking questions and listening without agreeing or disagreeing because both make the conversation about you and not them. Instead, do try to respect their right to their feelings and opinions and don’t be so quick to share your views. Be a patient listener. This shows people you value them as they are and, in this case, they will be much more open to communicating with you.
3. Stay interested and curious
When traveling abroad, you can’t help but notice all of the differences. And when you notice those difference, comparison might start to occur. When you start comparing, you are quick to subconsciously see foreign ways as either better or worse than your way. This is human nature, but it leads to judgment and not appreciation, tolerance, or true exploring of the different way.
Instead, approach every difference from a place of curiosity about what you could learn from the other person. Ask more questions and truly listen. Become someone who spends more time listening than talking, and your conversations will become rich and connected. You can still hold to your beliefs and opinions while you also connect in a respectful way with others.
4. Be respectful and courteous
Courtesy is a universal language and you feel it every time someone holds the door open for you, says sorry when they bump into you, or covers their mouth when they sneeze. It is respectful, considerate, polite behavior and should be the hallmark of our interactions with others.
Unfortunately, we are often more courteous to strangers than we are to family and friends. Are you as courteous to the people you live with? Do you make sure you are courteous to strangers? Being courteous creates friendship and connection before a word is even said. When we do this at all times, our conversations are more authentic and caring.
5. Remember: Positivity and humor break down walls
Humor can be the fastest way to connect to someone who speaks another language. Doing something silly might break that ice and connect you faster than anything else. I once signed up for a river rafting excursion in India, not knowing that in their culture, this activity is traditionally only for men. The men on our raft did not seem happy to have two ladies aboard. It was awkward and uncomfortable, at first, because everyone’s walls were up. But that changed the moment we started splashing the men with our paddles and they realized the water fight was on. Fun, humor and positivity make quick friends and start wonderful connections.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the authors of the 12 Shapes Relationship System - get the app today, take the quiz, invite friends and learn about your shape at - app.12shapes.com
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.