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Communication Skills for Bloggers

CommunicationTangent Time - “To have a successful marriage you only really need two skills – communication skills and conflict resolution skills.”

This is the advice was drummed into me as a trainee celebrant learning to do pre-marriage counselling. It is a fairly idealistic sort of statement and I’m sure could be debated long and hard – however it does identify two extremely important aspects of a good marriage – or for that matter a good relationship of any kind.

I think communication skills and conflict resolution skills are vital in friendships, business partnerships, client relationships etc.

I’m also coming to see their importance in blogging and today I want to tackle the first of them – communication skills (tomorrow I’ll look at conflict resolution).

Communication Skills in Blogging

I should clarify at this point that I’m not talking about communication skills in terms of how to write effectively (I’ve covered this elsewhere and would hope bloggers have a reasonable grasp of it already). Instead, for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to relational communication skills – something that I think that even the best bloggers struggle with.

I find it a little ironic that we as bloggers (who are in the communication business) struggle with miscommunication between us so often. One just has to cast their mind back to the last comment flame war that they observed (or participated in) to find an example of it. Most niches have these all in brawls from time to time.

While in some cases – the conflict can be over ideological differences of opinions, a lot of them come down to poor communication skills.

Skills for Effective Communication

There are two main skills that I teach couples in pre marriage counselling sessions. Both are equally important and without either one a relationship suffers:


1. Assertiveness

the ability to say (or write) what you feel, think and need.

Being able to clearly put into words what you mean is one half of the equation when it comes to communication and is a real skill that needs to be learned and practices. If you can do this there is every chance that the other person/people will know what you are trying to say and will then be in a position to respond to that in a well informed manner.

A number of points are worth making under the heading of assertiveness:

  • Assertiveness doesn’t equal Aggression - it’s possible to be assertive without being aggressive. My dictionary defines ‘assertive’ as ‘confident in stating your position or claim‘. One of the common problems in comment flame wars is that the confidence to state a case becomes an arrogance and the lines between arguing about the topic and attacking the person taking an opposing position become blurred.
  • Reading Minds is for Dummies – I often find that when counselling couples that there is an assumption by one that the other one knows what they mean and as a result they don’t ever say what they mean. Unpack it and there’s some bizarre assumption that they can read each other’s minds – something that to my knowledge most of us have not perfected.
  • The use of ‘I’ and ‘You’ Statements – A common problem in communication is slipping into making ‘You’ statements rather than ‘I’ statements. People who make ‘I’ statements take responsibility for for their messages and the tone of what they say tend to be more constructive and less accusatory. ‘You’ statements on the other often are quite accusing and attempt to shift blame. The problem with ‘You’ statements is that they don’t leave the other person with much room to manoeuvre and unless they are very controlled they will respond with their own ‘You’ statement – and the cycle continues as things degenerate into an exchanged based around personal attack.

2.Active Listening

the ability to hear what the other person is saying and being able to reflect it back to them.

Good communication is not just about what you say – but what you hear. Active listening is an essential part of the process and without it there is little chance of a constructive outcome. In my experience this is where a lot of blogging conflict comes from as I see a lot of people responding to one another who have clearly not read and understood the thoughts of the other person.

Active listening involves two main things:

  • Listening attentively without interruption – obviously blogging is a different case to verbal communication – but the principle still applies. In blogging I would say that this involves fully reading the post/comments of the other person before responding (not just looking at the title and skimming the headings). I find that a lot of comments left on blogs clearly demonstrate that people don’t read full posts. At times this can be a result of poor writing, but often it’s a result of laziness of the reader.
  • Being able to restate what you’ve heard the other person say – once again this is a challenge for blogging as it’s not an immediate/real time medium – however it’s important as it ensures that both parties are actually talking about the same thing or not. Actively restating what you’ve heard the other person say helps you to know what their true message is but also helps them to know how they are coming across. Often in the restating of what someone else has said a conflict can be resolved as parties realise they’re on the same page.

Once you’ve actively listened to the other person it’s your turn to to assertively (not aggressively) say what you think, feel or need while the other person actively listens. Usually after a round or three of this style of communication things will be resolved.

Two Way Street – it takes two to have a constructive conversation and the above process is of course much more difficult if only one party is willing to engage with it.

Having said that, we each have to take responsibility for our own actions and parts of relationships and I find that even when I’m attempting to communicate with someone who is not willing to actively listen that doing it myself can actually go a long way to resolving an issue.

Tomorrow I’ll examine the other essential skill for relationships – Conflict Resolution.

PS: Nice post on Active Listening here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Carla says:

    This is an excellent post!!!!!!!!. If we all learn to communicate are lifes would be easier. Communication is escencial not only on the blogs. but at work, with your spouse, you family and so on.
    We are raised to beleive that we cannot be assertive, we do not have to take responsability, if other people love us they will “know”, and so on.

    Thank you for this wonderful post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Carla

  2. katiebird says:

    Good post — but, whew — the power of imagery. I cannot STAND that photo. It actually makes me sick.

    So I didn’t actually read the text that’s adjacent to it. Sad, really (I do wonder what I missed) . . .

  3. Ian Anderson says:

    You should do a post on how using the wrong image can hurt your article. That pic is very disturbing. I’m pretty sure you didn’t intent it that way, but it definitely coming across that way.

  4. Nice post, very good points, especially that agressive/assertive seperation. That’s a tough one! And one that I imagine causes a lot of mis-communications :)
    I thought the pic showed the concept of ‘tongue tied’ very nicely :) – but there you go – we’re all different arent we…

  5. katiebird says:

    Natalie, I get the tongue-tied reference. I just don’t like the execution. A cartoon, might have been better. Really, this photo was a nightmare. If I didn’t love the conversations and comments here so much I wouldn’t have come back at all until tomorrow.

  6. Bill McRea says:

    I feel like that with my fingers. I just wish I could type what I am thinking, because it always sounds better in my head then when I type it.

    The tongue is kind of gross, but it is effective.

  7. Theodore says:

    Love the article and I only read it because the image hooked me in – very intruiging.

    Perhaps it turned some people off but for me it made me look twice and drew me into your blog for the first time.

  8. Darren, I second the notion that you need to do a post on using the wrong image. That thing is horrifying! Definitely not good communication.

  9. Kris says:

    Darren!

    Good post, been thinking a lot about this too.

    I also reacted to the photo, but I do not think it is as revolting as the other comments state. Generally I think you have a creative use of images, something I (try to) use on my blog too.

    Is it always your own original photos or do you use some sort of clip art archive? I see that you do not put your logo or © in the photos. Do you prevent hot linking ? Have you had a problem with people stealing your photos?

    best,

    kris

  10. Darren Rowse says:

    Thanks all for the feedback on the image. I personally didn’t find it offensive, although it is a striking image, and hope no one is seriously offended by it. It was chosen as a way of illustrating the topic (people not communicating well – something difficult to do when your tounge is tied).

    I’m interested to hear what people see about it as being disturbing?

    Kris – if you click on the picture it’ll take you to the source – Flickr. I use quite a few images from there with links back to each one.

  11. katiebird says:

    Hi Darren,

    It looks painful, like the tip is turning purple, like it would make me feel crazy if it was me with all that string wrapped around my tongue. And there is something about the slackness of the muscles around the mouth that seems totally inappropriate for the degree of discomfort the model must be feeling.

    As I said, I get the point of the illustration. I just don’t happen to like this particular image. I’m sorry if I sound too strident about it.

  12. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks for the feedback katiebird. Points taken and I’ll think twice in future before using similar images.

  13. Ay Balbon! The image is hideous. That’s bad communication right there. Avoid negative subjects and images because it just polarizes people. Ahahay!!!

  14. kca says:

    LOL! Great photo.
    Where did you find it? In a bondage photo club?
    Ok i m kidding
    I go now =========>>>>

  15. Valuable read and such detail! Thanks Darren!

  16. i think the pic was appropriate. Not disturbing at all. In fact – good communication tool to convey what you wanted to say.

  17. Pete says:

    Hey Darren,
    I have learned so much stuff on your site. Its not even funny. I am glad people like you are willing to share what you have learned throughout the years to rookies like us. You are online Blog guru. I learned the A-Z of blogging from your site. Thanks dude………………..keep it going

  18. Lori L says:

    FWIW, I liked the image, thought it aptly illustrated the article in an attention-grabbing way, and was surprised (and intrigued!) when it elicited such strong negative reactions in others. Different strokes, indeed!

    From Darren’s comment above it seems that he certainly didn’t intend to gross anybody out. But hmmm….what if he had intended to be provocative? Or even shocking?

    *pause for strokey-beardy moment*

    I love to see people taking chances rather than settling for a 50% gray, wishy-washy, “happy medium” guaranteed not to offend anybody (that’s a recipe for for a snooze-fest if I ever saw one!).

    I manly wanted to comment on the interesting meta-conversation going on here, but the actual article’s content was a good read as well. Thanks Darren.

  19. Screen Rant says:

    Sorry, but I just can’t get past that hideous photo.

    Vic

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Yesterday we talked about Relational Communication Skills – essential skills for blogging relationships (ironically the picture I used in the post caused some to question whether I had some poor communication skills going on). [...]

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  3. [...] Communication Skills for Bloggers Darren Rowse on Problogger.net has put up a really great post, including a disturbing but representative image on being tongue tied. I should clarify at this point that I’m not talking about communication skills in terms of how to write effectively (I’ve covered this elsewhere and would hope bloggers have a reasonable grasp of it already). Instead, for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to relational communication skills – something that I think that even the best bloggers struggle with. [...]

  4. [...] Communication Skills for Bloggers, tips on assertiveness and active listening. [...]

  5. [...] taught me about blogging and dealing with negative people. Also posts that might be helpful include Communications Skills for Bloggers and 10 Steps to Conflict [...]