For the past few years I have been working on a project with a friend.  I approached her with  an idea for a super cool website and asked her if she wanted to partner with me. This is an intensive extensive project. We both have full time jobs, so we have been chipping away and working on this project. Developing the framework, content, name, gathering information, interviewing web designers, graphic artists, getting some social media going and so much more. I love, respect, and adore my friend. She truly is an amazing human. She and I are very different people. VERY different. What is different about us easily outweighs what we have in common. In my perspective that is such a positive if we use our strengths, make the team the dream, work smarter and not harder what could go wrong?

What has been going wrong is our communication. The way in which express our thoughts, ideas, possibilities we has been creating conflict, stuck, yuck.

Last week after we meet I could not take it anymore. For a long time after our meetings I left feeling deflated and not heard. I was not feeling good about our friendship or our partnership. Because we were meeting the next Saturday I sent her an email on Wednesday prior asking her if we could talk about our friendship, partnership, this project. I let her know I was not feeling good about any of it. I did not want to blindside her when we met with my feelings and concerns. I wanted to give this conversation the best chance of being healthy, productive, helpful. I was mentally preparing for this talk. Giving her the opportunity to prepare could only help to decrease defensiveness, increase vulnerability and the potential have the best communication possible.

So on Saturday we talked. I shared and expressed my thoughts and feelings with examples. She shared her thoughts and feelings. What thing that became even more crystal clear is that we are  so  different, yet it is not the differences that is impacting us and our work.  Our different manner of communicating and not taking the time or effort to be sure that we are in sync has created conflict. We are not highlighting our strengths, making the team the dream, and we are not working smarter. Somewhere along the way we began to communicate in a manner that was creating a relationship where we working against each other. Both of us work in a field that requires a high level of communication skills. I am a firm believer in that it is not what you say, it is how you say it. Yet both of us were not doing a very good job with our communication.

In an article by by Liz Kingsnorth she gives “10 Tips for Effective Communication”. They are:

  1. An intention for connection. It’s not about being right, it’s about connecting.
  2. Listen more than you speak. Let me repeat.  Listen more than you speak.
  3. Understand the other person first. As she states be “curious and not furious”
  4. Understand needs, wishes, values. Take the time to “hear” what the other person is saying.
  5. Begin with empathy.
  6. Take responsibility for YOUR feelings. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel any way without YOUR consent”.
  7. Make requests that are practical, specific, positive.
  8. Use accurate, neutral descriptions.
  9. Be willing to hear “No”.  Remember this is a conversation to express feelings, ideas, thoughts, and gain understanding.
  10. Ways we communicate other than words. Body language speaks volumes. Be aware of your body, tone of voice, eye contact.

I am adding additional tips for effective communication:

  •  If you are upset about something that happened with someone hit the pause button. Take time to calm down, work through your feelings, write out how you feel and wait until you are in a calmer headspace to talk. When I was meeting with my friend a week ago if I had brought up all my feelings it would not have been good. My words would probably not have been kind, respectful and I know I would have not cared about what she had to say about well anything. I took some time to think through my feelings and thoughts.
  • Give the other person a heads up that you want to talk. Set up a time that works for both of you. This gives the other person the opportunity to come to the conversation in a more relaxed state.
  • If by chance the conversation begins to get intense and emotionally heated  stop the conversation. No one says anything positive when they are angry and upset. Come back to the conversation when both parties are calm.

Communication can be challenging. Being vulnerable and exposing all the parts of a person takes risks. Positive, effective communication is also liberating. I am so glad I sent the email and we talked. While this project is important to me, my friendship is even more valuable. Our conversation on Saturday was at times difficult. I know I focused on bringing my best listening and understanding skills so that we could have a positive, productive conversation.

When we parted there were no decisions made about our next steps. Our common hope is that we can work through this to get our relationship to a healthier place. We both agree we are different people with some significant differences in how we approach our work. This does not make one of us right and one of us wrong. I know for me this project is better because of her views, opinions, input. If we do move forward together with this project what HAS to change is how we communicate with each other.  That part is crystal clear.

Most fantastic person you are so worth have wonderful communication in all areas of your life. Take a moment to reflect upon on you communicate with others. I know for myself there are tweaks I can take, and do take, to improve my communication with others. If you are feeling not so good about a relationship in your life consider taking action and having a courageous conversation with that person. When I was deciding whether or not to talk to my friend I knew that if I was saying or doing that was upsetting to someone else I would want to know about it, even if it was difficult to hear. For all the relationships in my life when the communication is improved it is ALWAYS worth it.

May your communication be with you💜

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash