There is no secret formula for happy relationships or friendships. Such happiness is often a moving target. Yet, we do know that paying attention to ourselves and each other is key. We must remain diligent and open to each other. Sharing and responding to each other is vital for healthy interaction.
Thus, there are definitely some key universal elements that will help you connect with others in a healthy manner. Making a commitment to embrace productive communication enhances the quality of your relationships across the board.
While strong skills won’t guarantee a conflict-free life, they will provide a solid foundation for building trust, increasing engagement, and clearly sharing yourself with others.
4 Common Communication Breakdowns
Before you can communicate well, it’s often valuable to see how communication might be breaking down.
1. Poor Listening
This can cover a lot of ground and manifest in many forms, e.g.
- You are literally not hearing or paying attention
- You or the party interrupts often
- One or both of you assumes you know what’s about to be said
- You simply wait or mark time until it is your turn to speak
Whatever form it takes, communication breakdown serves to invalidate the speaker. Moreover, it almost guarantees a misunderstanding or misinterpretation will occur.
2. Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Choosing to be indirect or insincere is a recipe for crossed signals and conflict. It also foments resentment.
Many people prefer to suppress their feelings — to go along to get along. Such an approach is limiting because the other person doesn’t know what you’re truly thinking. Thus, the interaction is based on a flawed foundation or false information.
4. Aggression/Personal Attacks
Too often, communication morphs into mental or emotional warfare — especially online. Common tactics include verbal domination or personal attacks that deflect from the point at hand.
7 Ways to Practice Skills That Lead to Better Communication
To promote understanding and mutual respect, as well as secure more meaningful interaction and relationships, consider the following:
This is a lifelong journey. Healthy communication is a non-stop, evolving process. Thinking of it this way allows you to engage and appreciate others. In addition, communication becomes an opportunity to understand how others hear and respond to you as well.
2. Value Listening as Much as Talking
Your listening skills may quite possibly be your most important communication skill. Prioritize listening and watch your ability to connect expand exponentially. Listening involves slowing down, being mindful, and staying curious.
Allow others to share completely and feel fully heard. Leave no doubt that you were completely tuned in. Clarify with questions that reflect what you believe you heard them say. This affords you the ability to pick up on the nuances and meaning behind another person’s words.
3. Remain Aware of Cultural Differences
Not everyone communicates in the same way. do your best to honor differences that cut across culture, age, gender, etc. If you’re not sure about someone’s style or customs, respectfully ask them what is appropriate.
4. Be Direct Yet Respectful
You can speak your mind in a way that inspires trust and respect. This requires work and may vary from person to person. Being direct can make you feel uncomfortable but think of the problems it can prevent.
Keep in mind that firmly stating your own thoughts or ideas does not mean shutting down or negating anyone else’s views. As firmly as you relate your own ideas, make it known that directness is appreciated in return.
5. Understand the Importance of Timing
Some conversations are best delayed and/or rescheduled. Maintain an even playing field for discussion and productive interaction by appreciating the importance of timing.
6. Check Your Body Language
We speak with more than our voices. The other person is getting many other cues from you, e.g.
- Body language
- Facial expressions
- Vocal inflections
- Eye contact (or lack thereof)
Cultivate enough self-awareness to modulate unintended communication and recognize how others perceive you.
7. Resist the Urge to “Win”
Unless you’re on a debate team, most conversations don’t have to end with a winner being declared. Communication is not a competition. Use your interactions as an opportunity to learn and grow.
It Helps to Have a “Communication Coach”
Let’s assume you’ve taken some giant steps. First, you recognized the need for better communication. Then, you started working toward that goal. Yet, somehow, it just ain’t happening. Perhaps you still feel your interactions are shallow or fraught with misunderstanding.
Don’t despair. This is not unusual and, in these troubling, socially-distant times, growing more common by the day. There is no shame in asking for help. There’s no shame in accepting that you’ve hit a snag in your efforts to connect meaningfully.
Committing to regular sessions with a skilled guide is a proven path toward developing the skills you need. You’ll identify self-sabotaging patterns, discover fresh ideas, and practice new approaches. Learn how job and career support can help you improve your communication, it all begins with an individual counseling consultation. Please contact me soon.