Doc Fox's Lessons for Better Communication

Some of you might not know that Founder Susan Fox has her Ph. D. in Communication (from a gazillion years ago). She still teaches a graduate level Interpersonal Communication Course at NYU every so often and at the end of the semester I hand out a documnet called, "Doc Fox's Lessons for Better Communication."

When she mentions it to people they say they'd love to see it. So here it is; raw, un-prettied up, and for your knowledge. So come sit down and see what you might need from this and leave the rest. 

Favorite sayings:

"The only person who acts sensibly is my tailor. He takes my measure anew every time he sees me. Everyone else goes by their old measurements." George Bernard Shaw.

"You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do." Olin Miller

"Be Kind. You Never Know What Someone Is Going Through." Author Unknown


Doc Fox's Lessons for Better Communication


Perception, Emotions, and Listening 

-Remember that meaning is in the person, not the words. How you think something should be interpreted and how it is interpreted are two different things.

-People don't MAKE YOU feel anything. You are reacting to them, their words, and their behavior. Rather than "you make me feel X," use your "I" language and say, "I feel X when you…." Likewise, you don’t make other people feel anything. (Don’t mention this in the middle of a heated discussion.)

-Give people the benefit of the doubt and realize that you're likely to assume something bad happens to you because of external sources and something bad happens to others because of internal reasons.

-Don't 'half' or pseudo-listen. Folding clothes and talking is one thing; reading email and trying to talk isn't really the best use of anyone's time. If you aren't able to give a person your full attention, tell them "I can give you my undivided attention at another time (hopefully offering another time). Right now isn't a good time."

-Avoid using “should” have, “would” have, “ought” to, never and always.

-Practice listening. Get out of your head and do more than hear- embrace. It takes energy and time so listen when you can do it mindfully.


Communication Skills

-Communication is NOT a natural ability. You can always be a better communicator. 

-Ask, "What do you understand?" rather than "do you understand?" Likewise, ask "what about that makes sense?" rather than "does that make sense?"

-Paraphrase by saying "what I think I hear you saying is…."  and ask, "is there anything else?" when you are talking to someone, especially about a serious matter.

-Don't “ASSUME” (assuming makes an ASS out of U and Me) and can lead to misunderstandings.  Perception check, "you did/said X, which made me think Y, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't misreading what you did/said."

-Ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" when you start a conversation

-When turning down an invitation say, "but I'd love to be invited again so please ask" if, in fact, this is the case.

-If you're not willing to say it to someone's face, don't write it in an email. Especially don't write it in an email to someone ELSE.

-Take your time answering requests and making decisions (if you have time); you'll be glad to have the time to make an informed decision and give a thoughtful response. 

-Don’t use a personal conversation as a way to self-promote.

-If you are about to write/do something out of anger/frustration/fear; STOP. Write it, let it sit until you've had a good night's sleep. Send it to yourself as a nudgemail and give it some time to rest.

-Set limits if you have a deadline at the outset of a conversation or meeting. Say, "I need to be somewhere else at X so we need to wrap things up by Y."

-Apologize, expressing remorse, acknowledge of wrongdoing, accepting responsibility, and offering to repair. 



-Realize that relationships are more than just what you are giving and getting. Investments and commitment are important too.

-Remember, fights can help a relationship grow. They clarify thoughts, feelings and can move stuck relationships to a new place. If you've had a fight, taking a breather (and a bath) can help a LOT! 

-Both closeness and distance are important in relationships. In fact, remember that dialectics are ALWAYS present and don’t get so caught up in being worried about one end of the spectrum.

-If you are leaving a room with someone you love, acknowledge them before you leave with a verbal or nonverbal confirmation.

-Know when to leave relationships. When the costs outweigh the rewards, the future looks bleak, and you are more committed to the memory of the former relationship than to the one it's become.

-If you are in an abusive relationship (physically, verbally, or emotionally) seekhelp. It could change your life.



-If you don't have something nice to say (but you have to say it), say it nicely. If you need to criticize others, stick to the behavior and do NOT label other people's behavior (e.g., aggressive).

-Learn the variety of ways to deal with conflict. All types are useful at different times.

-Be open to criticism. While it's super easy to be defensive and give reasons for your behavior, say, "you may be right. I'll have to think about that."

-Fight Fair.  Ask the 3 Golden Questions: What is your greatest concern? What do you most want to have happen?  What do you most want the other person to understand? 

-“No” is a complete sentence.

-Being right and being liked are two different things. Understand that compromising can lead to more saved bridges.



-Gas up your friends online as a way of supporting them. 

-Emojis, stickers, and follow ups can help brighten a day and build up their resilience.


Family Communication

-Be aware of your birth order (or only child status) when you have kids and understand that it's easy to see things from your 'birth order' standing and harder to step out of that perspective.

-Having children puts huge amounts of stress on a relationship.  Focus on being a partner as well as being a mother/father if you have kids.

-Work on open exchange of ideas and the ability for your children to have their own values. This pluralistic communication type is better than protective, consensual and laissez-faire. 

-Use clear and direct in family communication. Avoid indirect and masked communication as this can impact a child’s self-esteem, future conflict styles, decision making, and susceptibility to persuasion.

-Give kids freedom to learn from their mistakes and be unhappy. Resilience doesn’t grow if we put bubbles around our children.

-Model good behavior in love and conflict. How you raise your kids significantly impacts their ability to function in other relationships.



-Sign your name on all correspondence, especially if your email doesn't have your entire name on it. 

-Put your email address in your signature file. If someone forwards your information and it truncates the message header, people can't email you if it's not in your sig file.

-Read through your text/email before you send it. Saves reputation, credibility, and cleaning up misunderstandings.

-Life is shorter than you think. Connect mindfully, limit parasocial relationships, and be vulnerable to fully live.



-Fake it til you become it. Reframe and reappraise problems into challenges (threats into opportunities) and “I'm nervous” into “I'm excited.” Make stress your friend.

-Speak up for yourself and your relationships. Holding back, being indirect, and being passive agrees ice hurts relationships. 

-Strive to be the best YOU that you can be but also cut yourself huge amounts of slack.

-We are cognitive misers, seeking to confirm our expectations. (self-fulfilling prophecies)

-Stand up for yourself. Being nice is a choice; some people don't deserve your niceness. Being too nice could get you hurt or worse. 

-Stretch yourself-- practice your power poses and be stronger than you ever thought possible. 

-Negotiate fiercely, like you’re fighting for a friend.  Ask for raises (especially women).

-Be someone who looks back and says, ‘that person made a difference in my life.” (reflected appraisal).



-Manage your technology-- don't let it manage you. You can use it for unifying, collaborating, distancing or distracting. Use it for good. 

-Technology can add complexity to relationships. Perception check, follow up IRL and via phone.

-We live in a socially saturated world and technology magnifies that. Spend time on the things that build you up and let go of technology and relationships that bring you down.

-Social Media can warp your perception of other people's lives (and happiness). Limit your time so you don't become warped with it. 



-Consider officially breaking up with people who aren’t good friends. (This includes family members.) 

-Trust your gut. Anxiety is different than fear. Fear is a friend and heightens your awareness of unsafe and threatening situations.

-Grieve hard and support others in their grieving. Open and honest communication will help increase personal growth and acceptance.

-Meet other people where they are. If you love them, support them even if you can’t understand what they are feeling.

-Practice slow breathing and meditation to help with anxiety. Practice doing nothing for 2 minutes.

-Take the world on your own terms. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to adversity.