Skip to main content

By Kary Zarate, Ph.D.

Understanding how to be a strong communicator is an essential skill when developing effective family-to-professional and professional-to-professional partnerships. That’s why, in our second webinar in our Collaborative Connections Strand for the Military-Connected Student, Improving Military Student Outcomes Through Effective Professional Collaboration, we took a deep dive into understanding our own communication styles and processes and how to increase our ability to listen without distraction.  Additionally, participants learned six different strategies to begin implementing into their current collaborative partnerships.

The webinar stressed the importance of reflecting on your current partnerships. Using the collaborative inventory from Griffiths et al., 2021 is the first step to understanding what elements within your current partnership may need to be worked on more deeply. This tool allows collaborators to honestly reflect on how well members of the collaborative team are engaging in many of the facets of strong collaboration such as openly communicating, trusting one another, and creating shared goals among others. The features of effective collaboration can be improved when collaborative partners are willing to understand their personal communication styles.

Each one of us has a style when we communicate, and sometimes, that style may not align with our communicative intention. Knowing your communication style and the process in which you communicate may assist with enhancing feelings of mutual respect and create an environment where shared decision making can occur.  To learn about the four communication styles (passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive), check out this guide from Princeton University.

Once collaborators have a better understanding of their communication style, it’s time to turn an ear to how to listen with intention.  The act of communication involves both sending and receiving messages. To improve your ability to actively listen, we must first be free of distraction. This can be a huge challenge for all of us as different priorities such as work, and family are constantly competing for our attention.  One of six strategies discussed in the webinar to better assist collaborators with listening is an activity in getting yourself grounded when entering a conversation called 3-3-3 grounding. This provides an opportunity to get refocused and into our bodies to assist with pushing those distractions aside.  Using 3-3-3 grounding can allow you to set an intention for being an active listener. For example, when listening to a collaborative partner, are you listening to understand them or to learn something? Having a listening intension improves our ability to retain the information we are hearing.

Finally, there are a few other strategies to improve shared decision making and to help collaborators generate a common understanding.  For providers supporting military-connected students, creating a document with the family that outlines the child’s future hopes and dreams through a person centered plan can get everyone on the same page about long term goals, and even if transitions between schools and communities need to occur.

If you’re interested in learning all six strategies and improving your collaborative partnerships through stronger communication, definitely check out this on-demand webinar!

Image from, CC0