How to Feel Connected to the Ones You Care About Through Effective Communication

Have you ever found yourself reliving conversations and constantly repeating yourself? It may be while trying to convey a message to your children or significant other. You may be having trouble getting your boss or colleagues to see things from your perspective, or not getting through to a friend or loved one about an important issue. Do you often feel like you are simply talking into a vacuum or speaking a language nobody else understands? We’ve all been there and it can be very frustrating.

The best communicators treat communication as a dialogue instead of a monologue

The best communicators use various techniques that have one aspect in common, they simply don’t treat communication as a monologue, whereby they are the only ones participating.[1] Good communication skills rely on having a dialogue. It is a mutual exchange that involves both parties equally. Strong communication skills are also a combination of both verbal and non-verbal signals that work together to ensure ideas are being delivered and received efficiently.

Developing good communication skills takes practice and honesty. It relies on being open and transparent, emotionally mature and a willingness to be wrong and to learn.

Here are 10 things to think about if you want to improve your communication skills:

Clear your assumptions and make every communication a new one

Ask yourself how well you know the person you are communicating with and how familiar they are with you. Sometimes, the people you know best are the ones you communicate the worst with because of the aforementioned illusion of insight. Put simply, you assume that you know each other well enough to understand each other easily, when this is not necessarily the case. Come at the communication from a place of newness every time. In your own mind, pretend the person is completely oblivious to your life experience and point of view, your character and your personality. Assuming you are both starting at the same place of unawareness and inexperience, will ensure you are both on equal footing and the communication will begin from a place of innovation and originality.

Give time and attention to important conversations

Effective communication takes time. Sometimes the message needs to be delivered on numerous occasions and you need to be willing and patient enough to harness the power of repetition. Depending on the importance of the communication, you may need to dedicate a set amount of time to committing to that conversation. For example, don’t talk to your boss about that pay rise as you pass them in the hallway or bump into them at the coffee shop. Schedule a meeting and make sure you have their full attention without distraction and time limits. On any occasion when you need to deliver a message of importance, give it the time and attention it deserves.

A good eye contact can save you thousands of words

It’s amazing how much information and emotion we can convey simply by looking into someone’s eyes. Don’t be creepy and stare or forget to blink, but make sure you connect with the other person intimately and regularly during a conversation. This is particularly important when communicating with children, who extract so much reassurance and comfort from an intimate act such as eye contact. Making someone feel as though you hold them in high regard, or at least care enough about them to connect in this way, will clear a path for delivery of a message and is one of the communication skills that is most often over looked.

Mirror the body language of the person you speak to

It is useful to mirror the body language and stature of the person you are speaking to. Bring yourself down to the level of a child, so they don’t feel like they are being towered over. Similarly sit down or stand tall to equalize yourself with the adult you are speaking with. Angel your body towards the person you are communicating with if you are having an intimate conversation, or alternatively, give the other person space if the situation requires it. If you gesticulate with your hands, be aware of the effect this is having on the other person and be conscious of your reactions to what they are saying. Are you clenching your fists, gritting your teeth, fidgeting or flinching? You don’t necessarily have to change or correct any of your responses, but being aware of them is one of the communication skills that can work to your advantage.

Sometimes listening is more powerful than speaking

Sometimes the best form of communication is to say nothing at all and to merely listen. Validating what the other person is saying by giving them the space to say it is half the journey. It fulfills the notion that communication is a two way street and allows the other person to deliver their message with confidence. What you do with that information is also important. Truly hearing what the other person is saying, not just listening to the words and waiting for your turn to speak, will equip you with information that will only enhance your own message.

Aim to express your thoughts to the best instead of being understood

Ask yourself what the point of the exchange actually is. Sometimes we have an end goal in mind and are bitterly disappointed when the result is different. It is ideal to have at least some idea of what you want to convey, but having limited expectations about how that message is received will take the pressure away from getting your way at all costs. This is difficult for most people. Everybody wants to be understood. However, sometimes simply aiming to articulate yourself and being satisfied that you have done that to the best of your ability is enough to give you the strength and confidence to do this effectively. Expecting the other person to see things exactly the way you do, will only set you up for disappointment and frustration is the destroyer of effective communication.

It’s not always about yourself, think about the needs and wants of others

This is closely tied to expectation. It is useful to have a purpose to your communication. What are you trying to achieve? Is it that you want to get something off your chest or do you think what you have to say will change things for the better for both parties? If your intentions are purely selfish, this will come across immediately. Do take responsibility for your feelings by using “I” statements, but don’t let it be all about yourself. Considering the needs and wants of the other party will ensure a mutually beneficial exchange and is more likely to ensure that your message is received well.

Always be true to your emotions, including the negative ones

Connecting with another person on an emotional level is important and it doesn’t always have to be comfortable or feel good. Sometimes, difficult conversations need to delve into negative emotions for them to be successful.[2] Authenticity is messy and humans experience a wide range of emotions on their journey towards truth. We need to become familiar with the ugly side of being human, including acknowledging anger, fear, sadness, envy, disappointment and shame. Getting in touch with these feelings and allowing ourselves to articulate them will also help us to recognize them in others and will ensure well rounded communication. It is not always going to be pleasant, but pretending that it should be omits a whole range of communication skills that allow messages to be delivered accurately and completely.

Communication doesn’t end when you stop speaking

Communication shouldn’t end when everyone stops talking. We should develop the resilience and the emotional maturity to be able to go away and critically assess what has taken place. Self-reflection and personal examination of the conversations we have, particularly the significant ones will not only expand our understanding, but help us to eloquently express ourselves in the future. We learn from our exchanges. Not only from our own actions that can help us think about how to do things better next time, but also from the behavior and communication skills of others. When the words of someone stick with you and resurface in your mind after the event, consider how that person delivered the message to you and why it worked and emulate them.

Learn from every valuable interaction

Finally, the key to effective communication is a level of surrender, whereby once the exchange has taken place, you should be able to be satisfied that both parties have done their best to convey their message and the interaction is now over. All exchanges are valuable and the aim should be to extract the benefits and learn from the failures. This will ensure progress and the constant improvement of your communication skills.

Reference

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