Things we learn in school, like math, grammar, and science, are obviously important and helpful to know. But arguably one of the most important life skills to master is communicating with others, and it’s not something that’s typically taught in a school curriculum.
“Our entire life is simply a series of conversations,” Charreah K. Jackson explained to TMRW. The communications consultant and executive coach said just by the power of communicating, she’s been able to upgrade to first class, talk her way out of speeding tickets, grow her business to five continents and even manage to get invited to an event in Oprah’s backyard.
“We don’t value the power of communication to transform our lives,” she added. But clearly, it’s a huge part of everyday life.
Below, brush up on four effective communication tips that will not only help you relate to others but could also change your life.
1. Say “no” when you need to
It can be hard to say no, especially when you don’t want to let people down either at work or in your personal life. But Jackson reminds us that time is a precious asset that you only spend once. “Inability to say no leads to a lot of regret of time wasted,” she said.
“Every time you say ‘yes’ to doing something, you are saying ‘no’ to all the other things you would be doing instead,” she added. “So, when you are unable to say ‘no’ at work or in your personal life, you then are saying ‘no’ to your own dreams and the other ways you could spend your valuable time.”
The takeaway? Be honest with yourself about if you can do something, and if you can’t, it’s important to communicate your boundaries and say no if needed.
2. Learn to delegate
You might think that taking on all the work yourself will make you look more productive and better at your job, but Jackson says there’s this myth of “self-made” that makes our society struggle to request support. “Every great person has help to get there.”
In fact, the biggest way to increase your output is to increase your delegation, she said.
So, how do you do it effectively? First, remember that delegating isn’t just dumping a to-do list on someone else, Jackson said. “Make sure to make time to answer any questions to ensure the team member handling the task is clear and confident on what is to be done.”
You should also communicate the desired outcomes, resources, and expectations to execute a task. “Take the time to ensure your team has clear direction to accelerate performance,” she said.
3. Navigate disagreements
People have different opinions, of course, but when it comes to disagreeing with others, Jackson says it’s first important to reassess what, who and where we give our energy. “You don’t have the energy to waste on things that don’t matter,” she said.
But if you do need to have a tough conversation with someone, she advises taking a deep breath beforehand and committing to staying grounded. “There have been plenty of would-be arguments that my calm became contagious for the other person,” she said. “You get to choose how you respond in every situation.”
One thing that helps is to enter every conversation with the attitude you and the other person are on the same team working toward the same goal, Jackson said. “Identifying our shared purpose and goals gives us a foundation to build any conversation — especially when we don’t agree.”
Oh, and make sure you listen to the other person. “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” she said. “Your biggest job is to listen and acknowledge what you heard. When people feel heard they are much less antagonistic.” After listening, identify the common goal and your perspective on the strategy that’s a win for you both.
4. Ask for what you want and need
“Most people would rather chew glass then ask for help,” Jackson said. But it’s important to shift your mindset into thinking that everyone is on your team.
Her epiphany around this happened when she was on a plane and needed to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to have to ask her neighbors to get up. “I realized I was literally choosing to be uncomfortable over asking for something,” she said. “It clicked for me, and I had to shift from thinking my request was a bother to realizing people want to be good people and help. And they’d much rather get up for a few seconds than have an irritable plane neighbor.”
One trick she uses is to treat her requests as a win for both parties. That way, “I don’t feel like I am taking something from someone,” she said.
“And remember everything and everyone needs support,” she added. “When we don’t ask and (don’t) receive support, we become out of balance.”