The Basic Principles of Productive Communication

Communication is very important to get your intended message across. However, sometimes we overlook the basic principles of communication. It hits me right in the head when I received this material from a class that I am participating in: Productive Communications. It made me thinking, have I communicated productively?

According to Albert Mehrabian[1], the non-verbal messages is relatively more important than the verbal ones. In a communication, verbal aspect only contributes 7%. The other aspects that play greater role on the communication effectiveness are vocal intonation (38%) and body gesture (55%) .

Stay positive

How to train ourselves to become a productive communicator? It always start with our mind. Our words are reflecting our mind. The first thing to do is to always think positive. Positive mind will trigger positive words. The thing with positivity is, it's like a cycle. The positive words will later pumps positive energy to us and people around us.

Try to always rephrase negative words into positive ones. For example: It's difficult into it's challenging. I don't know into let's find the answer together. Our choice of words will stimulate our brain to react differently. Positive words will stimulate the brain to think positively.

Communicating with Spouse

Good communication with spouse is the key to happy marriage. There are several highlights that are need to be paid attention in communicating with our spouse.

  1. Clear and clarify. Give a clear message your spouse. Be direct if possible. Do not expect our spouse to read our minds without us saying a word, haha! And give your spouse time to clarify your message if it's still unclear.
  2. Good timing. Timing is everything. Would you prefer be proposed in a romantic dinner or on a plane during bad turbulence? Try to get your message across in a comfortable setting for both of you. Knowing your spouse mood and emotions is also the key. Make sure you and your spouse are communicating in a good mental state.
  3. Consistency of non-verbal cues. Referring to what Mehrabian said, non-verbal cues is vital. Your gesture and intonation should be in line with your message.
  4. Eye contact. Making eye contact is important to show how sincere you are in communicating your message. I have to admit that this communication aspect is the aspect that I mostly overlooked. There are times that I say things to my husband while walking, or by doing other things. Sorry, Hubby! :(
  5. Be responsible to your communication results. Always keep in mind that the we are responsible to our communication results. If your messages do not get across, do some evaluation of what aspects is overlooked. Is it the timing? The clarity? The non-verbal cues? Etc. Improve your message and communicate it again with your spouse.

Communicating with Child(ren)

Children has unique characteristics. Their ability of understanding your message is varied depending their brain maturity in processing it. Thus there are more aspects to note, compared to communicating with adult.

KISS (Keep It Short & Simple)

Short sentences are easy to understand and to be remembered. When communicating with kids, use simple sentences instead of compound sentences.

Unproductive sentence: "When you arrive home from school, put your shoes in the shoe rack, hang your coat on the hanger, and put your bag in your room."

Productive sentence: Put your shoes in the shoe rack. (Give the kids time to do it before giving another orders)

Friendly tone

Referring again to Mehrabian, verbal sentences only contributes 7% to the success of communication process. While vocal intonations plays greater role of 38%. Children will likely do what we said happily when we communicate with them in a friendly tone. Thus, we need to pay attention to our vocal tones as well.  

Unproductive sentence: "Open your mouth." (with a flat tone)

Productive sentence: "Can you open your mouth, darling?" (with a friendly tone)

Say what we want, NOT what we don't want them to do

Unproductive sentence: "Don't run!"

Productive sentence: "Can you walk and hold my hand?"

Focus on the future, NOT the past

Unproductive sentence: "You're late for school today. Haven't I told you to sleep early and prepare all of your school needs the night before?"

Productive sentence: "You're late for school today. What can I help to make you get up early so that you won't be late again?"

Rephrase cannot with can

Always encourage children to keep trying even though they face difficulties. This will build up their confidence that they can do it by themselves. For example, when your kid always run to you to tie their shoe, teach them to do it themselves. Encourage them during the process. Don't forget to give them compliment when they show improvement and when they're succeed.

Focus on the solution, NOT the problem

Unproductive sentence: "You're late again for school today. Haven't I told you to sleep early and prepare all of your school needs the night before? See what happens when you don't listen to me."

Productive sentence: "You're late for school today. What can we do to make you wake up early? Can we try to go to bed early this evening? I will help you to prepare your school needs so that you can go to bed early."

Clear on critics and compliments

Unproductive sentence: "Well done!"

Productive sentence: "I am proud that you gave your seat to that old lady."

Unproductive sentence: "You didn't behave, I don't like it."

Productive sentence: "Running around in the restaurant disturbs others. Can you please sit?"

Replace advice with reflection of experience

Unproductive sentence: "If you don't want to be late again for school tomorrow, try to sleep early and prepare your stuff the night before."

Productive sentence: "I experienced the same thing when I was in school. I was late and forgot to bring an important assignment. Since that day, I always prepare my school needs the night before and make sure I packed I all need for school tomorrow."

Replace interrogation with observation

Unproductive sentence: "How was your day? What did you learn in school?"

Productive sentence:

"I see that you are a so happy. Can you share your happiness with me?"

"I notice that you are a bit gloomy. Do you want to share something?"

Change denial/emotional diversion sentences with emphatic sentences

Unproductive sentence: "Tired already? We've just walked shortly."

Productive sentence: "Are you tired, baby? What makes you tired? Do you want to take a break for a while?"

Change order sentences into options

Unproductive sentence: "Time for a bath now. Turn off the TV!"

Productive sentence: "We will go in 30 minutes. Do you want to take a bath now or in 5 minutes?"

Practice makes perfect

Knowing only is not enough. At the end, what matters is how you implement things that you know. After getting the material of productive communication, the challenge is to implement these aspects whenever I communicate with my spouse or my child. Since my child is still a baby, I will apply these techniques to my husband. I will update the stories in the upcoming posts. Let's see how it goes!

[1]: Mehrabian, Albert (2009). "Silent Messages" – A Wealth of Information About Nonverbal Communication (Body Language)". Personality & Emotion Tests & Software: Psychological Books & Articles of Popular Interest. Los Angeles: self-published. Retrieved April 6, 2010.

Disclaimer: This article is written based on the classroom material of Ibu Profesional, with some adjustment and addition of writer's point of view.