I DON'T LIKE THE WAY YOU TALK TO ME!
Nearly every woman lawyer I have ever known has heard the exact statement above from their husband or significant other.
I bet you have too.
Communication is at the core of every relationship you ever have in our life. Your style of communication has a direct impact on the happiness and success you will experience personally and professionally.
As a lawyer, you communicate for a living. You have mastered the art of clearing away the mundane, rapidly reducing issues down to controverted and uncontroverted facts, so you do not waste time on irrelevant details. In your work, you are an effective communicator and clearly understood.
However, at home, in your personal life, you may have trouble communicating. You often wonder why the person you love the most can’t seem to understand you, stating repeatedly, “I don’t like the way you talk to me.” You believe you are communicating effectively, but something is wrong and you just don’t know how to fix it.
Sound familiar? Feel familiar?
Unfortunately, this lack of effective communication is often the start of losing your relationship. However, when you get this right, you can have a happy, thriving relationship.
I have found there are 3 crucial communication tools that work every time.
· Be conversational
· Be clear
· Be considerate
Lawyers tend to have a fact and evidence based communication style, which can feel very interrogative and offensive to your listener.
To avoid that, embrace a conversational style. That means this . . . they talk . . . you listen . . . then you talk . . . they listen . . . and then you can talk again. You would be surprised at how many lawyers don't use this very simple communication model.
The most important aspect of any conversation is to listen. To listen, you must be completely silent. (I personally love that listen and silent have the exact same letters.) This includes silencing your mind and listening to understand. Don’t listen to defend or accuse. Instead, listen like your relationship depends upon it.
You may have a long list of issues to discuss and have expertly compiled them, like an evidence log. Instead of bringing up one or two concerns, you may present all of your “evidence” at once, overwhelming your partner who becomes confused and feels defeated. He shuts down and refuses to engage in further conversation with you.
Every time you do this, it chips away at your relationship. Every.Time.
Your message should always be clear and easy to understand. Leave your 'lawyer speak' at work. Your non-lawyer love can be made to feel belittled, ignorant or stupid because you use words they never use.
So when you have an issue you want to discuss:
· write out every way in which you have thought about the issue
· pare that down to one or two topics/sentences
· then speak those sentences kindly and clearly
Better yet, convert those sentences into questions . . . not interrogatories . . . questions. Try not to use conclusive statements.
Employ a discovery process where you invite them to explain how they see the situation, how they feel and what they are/were thinking. And listen to what they say. Listen without judgment. Just listen.
If you are going to approach your spouse with a heavy issue that’s weighing on you, prepare them for that. Ask them if it’s a good time to talk. If they say no, don’t push it.
The person might be dealing with other stressors that you are completely unaware of. They may be hungry or
tired or already dealing with a personal frustration or disappointment. You may make a bad situation much worse for them by your timing.
So, be considerate of the time you choose to approach an issue, ensure that the other person is open, ready and emotionally able to have the conversation you want to have.
Also, make sure you are considerate in your approach. Don’t use insults, harsh words or name calling. Refrain from using phrases like “you always or you never . . .” If you are really angry or frustrated . . . pause and give yourself time to calm down. That may take a few hours or a few days. Do whatever it takes.
If you want to learn more about improving your communication style, check out our course designed with you in mind, Life School for Lawyers.
If you would like to find out how I coach and mentor women lawyers just like you, message me here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakeshia S. Ekeigwe