Suggestions are out there everywhere. Substitute spaghetti squash for pasta (but make sure you say "spaghetti" first so maybe the people in your life who are paying little attention will just assume the squash really is spaghetti). It is true, of course, that squash contains less carbs than pasta, but really? "Yes, Shelly, people do it all the time." I just read you can substitute cinnamon for sugar (but I wonder, "What if you want sweetness and you weren't looking for a cinnamon-y flavor?" One of the best ones I've seen is substituting collards for bread (just wrap the collards around your favorite meat and voila! instant sandwich!) --- Dave just said, "Seriously?"
Reading about all these substitutions made me think about those things for which there is no substitution, especially when it comes to communication. Here are my top two: make time and really listen.
Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an attempt at communication where one or both of these things didn't happen (and, by the way, we all have likely been there as well as on the doling it out side) knows fully well it can be extremely frustrating.
Our lives and days are extremely busy, no one can deny that. So, it almost seems perfectly commonplace for conversations to happen "on the go". We're both walking down the hallway and we try to have a serious conversation about something. The problem is, when we don't make time a priority for a conversation, the content of the conversation is more likely to be misconstrued or, at the very least, not given its due. In both of my books (Communicate and Motivate (2011) and Building Trust in Teacher Evaluations (2014)), I talk about the importance of making time, which may necessitate saying to someone, "This is a really important conversation we need to have. In order to give it the time it needs, can we meet in one hour in your office?" instead of trying to squish the conversation into 5 minutes. The squishing will likely result in both parties going away from the conversation feeling unsatisfied. There simply is no substitute for making time to talk.
So, now, if we are lucky enough, we have set aside the time to have the conversation. Now, the problem often becomes one of really listening. I've written books and articles on this and I still find it a struggle at times. Just yesterday, I had asked Dave to tell me what he liked about the new Jamaican banana bread recipe I had tried. He immediately said, "I think I like it so much because it reminds me a little bit of bread pudding." As I am not a huge fan of bread pudding, I grimaced. He quit telling me what he liked and said, "When I see that facial expression, it keeps me from wanting to tell you more." We have often said I would not make a good poker player---my opponents could read every single expression on my face and I would lose my shirt (or at least all my money). Instead of reacting to what he is saying, I need to focus on truly listening. The same holds true in the workplace. When someone is sharing something about their work (particularly to a supervisor) and the supervisor is grimacing, the two-way conversation is likely to completely shut down. Again, there is just no substitute for listening.
Just for today, perhaps we can be aware of the important things in communication and not try to take shortcuts or substitutions. But, on the other hand, if you have any great spaghetti squash recipes to pass along.....