Some moments can change your life forever, and for the better.

I’ve seen this happen many times, especially when teaching how-to lessons in interpersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication was one of my favorite subjects to teach, for the 30+ years I taught college in California. The lessons were not some abstract and limited subject, like advanced calculus. Not to knock math, but the reality is that interpersonal communication offers skills and resources that can be used as soon as you walk out of the classroom, and can immediately improve your personal and professional life.

Better still, these activities are often fun and uplifting!

That’s why I’m going to, from time to time, be sharing some of these “try this” activities and key concepts. Look on this website under the category and key words such as #interpersonal and #communication. I’ll keep you posted, too, on other key words that emerge from my writing.

Until then, let me leave you with one of the first lessons in interpersonal, using “I language.”

Whenever you need to have a conversation about another person’s problem-behavior, rather than saying: “You did this, and you did that…” try this instead.

Lead off with how the behavior makes you feel.

“I feel frustrated when I walk into the den and there are dirty dishes left on the table.”

This approach usually focuses on your feelings, which you are entitled to, and it tends to dial down the defensiveness when a sentence begins with “you.”

In later posts, we’ll talk about other ideas that can be helpful, too. But in the case above, a follow-up sentence might be. “What do we (again, not “you”) do to keep this from happening again?” This invites a mutual problem-solving discussion, and it leaves an opening for the other person or persons to offer an explanation of an issue (the sink was already full of dishes, and I didn’t know where to put them) that lets them have their say.

Living and working with other people can be one of life’s top pleasures, and it can also be the source of recurring headaches. Usually, it’s a bit of both. But better communication skills can make the good times better and the bad-times not-so-awful.

Hope you can join me again. For the next posting.

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