Podcast: Effective Ways to Get More Out of Your Communication

Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.

1. The Family Law Tip of the Week (1:12)

If you have a spouse or ex-spouse who is refusing to give you information about the amount of money they make, it is an easy problem to solve. In Arizona, you can deliver a written request to that person’s employer asking for earnings information. Within 20 days, the employer has to give you details about income, benefits and lots of other things. It is easy to do, you do not have to go through an attorney, and, in most cases, it will give you information you need for your child support or spousal maintenance case. Check out Arizona Revised Statutes 25-513 for more information on this tool you might be able to use in your case.

2. How to Talk to Knuckleheads (1:58)

On today’s podcast, Wendy moderates a panel of some of Hernandez Family Law’s team members who will be talking about communication. The panel consists of Tracy Augustin (Associate Attorney), James Hoffmaster (Life Coach) and Shannon Hernandez (Director of Marketing, Social Media and Promotions). This conversation was recorded as a Google Plus On Air Hangout which you can watch if you like:

Is Communication Happening Like You Think It Is?


(3:08) According to George Bernard Shaw, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This is a great place to start our discussion because a lot of times, people THINK they have communicated what they’ve wanted to say, but they REALLY haven’t. When there are communication issues, it is not usually just one of the people who is not doing a good job of effectively communicating. It is usually two people not effectively communicating.


(3:51) Tracy has been in situations where she is involved in a conversation with a person and she thinks that person is “getting it,” but they’re not. Essentially, you’re just having a conversation with yourself at that point. It is important that both parties are involved and know what’s going on during a conversation.


(4:19) Wendy believes a big part of “getting it” in an interaction is being an active listener. Being an active listener means you are really listening to what the other person is saying and doing. There are cues you can pick up on in other people. In some cases, although a person may be saying one thing, that is not what they really mean or what they want to say.


(4:42) James believes non-verbal communication gives you an idea if the other person is picking up on what you are saying. Specifically, James thinks you should watch a person’s eyes (because eyes are the gateway to the soul). Watch the other person’s hands and what they are doing with them, too.


(5:31) Shannon thinks when you are practicing active listening, you should be listening to all the words that are being said. Shannon taught high school English a few years back, and he told all his students they should focus on the words AND on the eyes, hand gestures, whether the other person is paying attention, etc. It is difficult to talk to people who don’t appreciate the idea of communication because it can be so powerful if it is used right. If you are trying to get one person to communicate and you (as the communicator) are trying to get them engaged in the conversation, you should pull them in.


Are You Ready to Communicate?


(7:03) In Shannon’s experience, in some cases, one of the parties wants to put off a discussion until later. He doesn’t like this. Shannon prefers to “reel” the other person in to be proactive about solving problems.


(7:40) Wendy agrees with what Shannon is saying, but she also feels that somebody has the right to say that s/he is not ready to talk about something. In those cases, one of the parties might be feeling emotional or may not have had the chance to think about what it is they want to say. Sometimes someone just needs a little time to get ready for a conversation before it happens.


(8:10) For example, in a marriage, one partner may want to talk about an issue, and the other partner isn’t ready. Tracy says this happens a lot in her marriage. She is the one who wants to confront an issue head on. Her husband, on the other hand, needs time to gather his thoughts and cool off. He doesn’t want to say something he is going to regret. Tracy hates letting things fester. As a result, they butt heads on that issue quite a bit.


(9:02) For Tracy, the key is knowing where the other person is coming from and trying to find middle ground as a way to fulfill each party’s needs.


(9:15) James feels if you understand the other person and whatever their situation is, you shouldn’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean that the conversation isn’t important to the other, it just means that that person needs to cool off.


Empathy Is a Big Part of Effective Communication


(10:00) Shannon sometimes finds it hard to know where the other person is coming from. A lot of times when a person is focusing too much on him/herself, it’s not teamwork. You are not allowing the other person to take the time they need to gather their thoughts. When you allow the other person to do this, when they come back to the conversation, chances are it will be more constructive.


(11:20) If you really want to communicate, you have to be ready to try to understand where the other person is coming from. That is called empathy. Although you may not agree with the other’s viewpoint, you can put yourself in that person’s shoes.


(11:53) At this point, here are the takeaways the panel has discussed: 1. Go into the conversation ready to understand and pay attention to words and non-verbals. 2. Make sure both people are ready to have the conversation. 3. Have empathy.


Understanding the Other’s Communication Style


(12:27) In some highly abusive situations, it is difficult to communicate with the other person using even these tips. James thinks that understanding communication styles is the best way to deal with a difficult situation like this. It is going depend on the type of communicator the other person is to get your word across. If the other person is in an aggressive mood, it can be difficult, as this person is a “knucklehead.”


(13:46) In that situation, you might want to start out by saying a few things to disarm the other person. You can repeat what it is you think the other person is saying to you. In other words, let the other individual know you understand where they are coming from and are hearing what they are saying.


(14:20) It is important to let the other person know that you are trying to understand. There is nothing more infuriating for an aggressive communicator than them thinking you don’t know what they are saying or are not listening to what they are saying.


(14:59) Shannon has been involved with an aggressive communicator. In his case, he felt the other person forced him to do something he didn’t want to do. He didn’t feel good about it and when he tried to tell the other person he didn’t like it, the situation blew up. In that case, he should’ve approached the person differently. (16:40) In communicating with people (especially with significant others), you should know that people have different definitions of words. Something you say may mean something completely different to the other person. You may have to break it down.


(17:04) This touches on a subject tackled by John Grey in his classic relationship book called “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” Men and women speak different languages. James has experience with this. (17:30) Once, early in James and Wendy’s courtship, he made the mistake of saying he preferred one color of lipstick over another. Believe it or not, that exploded into a huge argument. Wendy did not take James’ statement the way James meant it.


(18:10) At that point, Wendy and James did not understand the other’s communication style. One person might take things very literally (like Wendy). Others might not. Know your audience, how they listen and how they communicate.


(19:50) The good thing about miscommunication is that it helps us grow. The only way we can learn to become better communicators is by messing it up sometimes. Now, Wendy and James’ past communication failures can bring light to communication issues they are having now.


Fear is Always What is Behind a Defensive Communicator 


(20:44) When a person is getting really defensive in a discussion and starting to use stronger language, beneath that is fear. Because something you are saying is ringing true with the other person, it may cause them to react strongly.


(21:16) Tracy agrees. Recently, she was in a discussion with another attorney about work. This individual was really talking down to Tracy, and Tracy didn’t appreciate it. As a result, Tracy said, “I don’t appreciate the way you are talking to me, and you don’t have to talk to me like I’m a child.” At that point, the person started throwing more accusations onto the table.


(22:03) In that conversation, Tracy felt the protocol was to walk away from the interaction because she wasn’t getting anywhere. Defensiveness is a sign that two people aren’t communicating well.


Stand Up for Yourself During Hard Conversations!


(22:35) Tracy thinks it is important to stand up for yourself if you feel like someone is attacking you and it isn’t warranted. You should always be able to stand up for yourself. In her situation, Tracy had done nothing to deserve the treatment she was getting. She felt like she had to stand up for herself. Standing up for yourself will make you feel better because you will know you tried to resolve the issues.


(23:39) Shannon believes you sometimes have to be the bigger person and step away. As individuals who are trying to make something work, you need to give some type of understanding to the other person’s feelings who is feeling attacked. As you mature, you may realize you can’t win a certain argument, so you are OK with walking away. There are some situations, however, when you can come together as a team and build whatever it is you are trying to build.


(25:25) As James has matured, he has become a better listener. (He thinks it is due to lack of energy…possibly. Joke.) It is also a respect thing. If you communicate with respect, you will get respect back. That took a few years for James to learn.


We Don’t Always Have to Agree


(27:14) In some situations, people will never agree on things. Wendy has been reading a great author named James Altucher. In some of his articles, James discusses how everyone has an opinion and, in most cases, you are not going to change another person’s opinion. Accept it. (28:00) It is OK to disagree. The fact is we are different people, we come from different backgrounds, we have different preferences and we don’t always agree on everything. That is what makes life interesting.


Is Technology Good or Bad for Effective Communication?


(28:29) Being present during your communication with other people is important. It is really hard with phones, iPads, kids, and life. Tracy struggles with not paying attention to what is going on at home. It is good to make a conscious effort to ditch technology and live life.


(30:15) Shannon is connected on every channel – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, on the radio, and on the phone. He has a lot of balls in the air at once. Shannon gives the impression that he is doing a lot at once. (31:13) He is not always successful, and communication does break down for him once in a while. Juggling technology can be a hindrance. It is important for Shannon to be connected and at times, it can be the best thing ever. (32:52) However, make it a point to put the phone down and focus on the people in front of you.


(33:37) When you boil it down, our lives are about people and connecting with the people in front of us. James thinks that technology is getting better and easier. However, communicating effectively comes back to your own instincts.


(35:00) Assertive people are better communicators than passive-aggressive people, passive people and aggressive people. Assertive people use the word “I” a lot because they focus on what they want. In communicating with knuckleheads, figure out HOW to communicate as opposed to figuring out what to communicate about.


(35:55) Final take aways: Use “I” statements. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbals. Empathize. Make sure both people are ready to have the conversation. Be present.

3. Thoughts From the Life Coach (37:55)

Today, James riffs on self-confidence, followed by Wendy’s take on the subject.

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