I wonder if you made New Year’s resolutions to diet and exercise?  Some aspect of keeping physically fit seems to make our lists each year, even though many of us don’t stick with it. Here’s another area that could benefit from “shaping up” in 2014 and, it would provide life-changing benefits. I call it Communication Fitness and it doesn’t involve treadmills, weights or diets. Consider giving as much attention to the quality of your communication with others as you do to the more physical aspects of your life.

Speaking and communicating

I can almost hear you thinking, “Well, everyone knows how to communicate, right?”  Wrong! Everyone knows how to speak. But communicating — a balancing act of words and actions — is not quite the same thing.  Effective communication matches words and actions because often the truer or accurate meaning is communicated non-verbally.  For instance, a person who says they’re glad to see you but does not smile, look you in the eyes, lean toward you or extend a hand, is probably not really glad to see you.

Effective communication delivers an intended message — presupposing that you know what you mean and that your thinking is clear. What do you really intend to say and why does it matter? Rehearsing out loud in advance of an important conversation is a good idea because you might decide to rephrase a thought when you hear yourself speak. Remember that your non-verbal communication will also convey a message. Your words will be more credible when your actions match. Be aware that a simple tilt of the head, roll of the eyes, a frown, a sigh, a tone, or a step back will either confirm or confuse the message you intend to convey.

Unintended consequences of texts and tweets

Misunderstandings, muddled messages and meanings are often the result of today’s speedy communication with tweets and texts.  Not everything can be explained in what amounts to shorthand and some things really do need face-to-face conversations. If you can’t be physically present, Skype and FaceTime may come in handy.  And, do we really need more frequent social updates about each other’s daily activities or modest accomplishments? What we long for is more genuine connection, wisdom, insight, understanding and discernment — less quantity and higher quality. These are the communications and interactions that bond and build trust.

Much of how we now communicate is reactive and without thought.  Misunderstandings and confusion abound, along with incorrect assumptions, anger or hurt feelings. Relationships — professional and personal — suffer from lack of attention. You can listen to the news any day and hear public figures “walking back” their comments to correct or revise their message because they said something they regret. Decide what messages need your attention and give the time needed to convey your meaning clearly and accurately.

Here are five questions to help you enhance your

Communication Fitness:

1)   What meaning do you want to convey?

2)   Why is the message important to you or the other person?

3)   What outcome do you seek?

4)   What is your true intention with the message?

5)  What are your real feelings about the person or situation?

To keep you in shape, here are a few important exercises:

  • Think before you speak. What outcome do you desire?
  • Acknowledge the reality of how you feel.
  • Clarify your meaning.
  • Start with the end in mind for the situation and the relationship.
  • Communicate in a clear, factual manner.
  • Be kind and show respect; always preserve dignity.
  • Say something true.