-Mayah Taylor, MA
From an early age, we begin learning and practicing the language of communication. Communication is how we share our wants and needs with others. It’s how we form relationships with people. It can be verbal or nonverbal. Above all else, it is an important factor in our everyday lives. In our practice we see individuals from all walks of life struggling with being able to communicate with others. Quite frequently we see those who are in intimate relationships coming to us for couples therapy with the underlying issue of ineffective communication. So how does one become a better communicator? Here are some life hacks for better communication.
Have you ever been in a disagreement with another person where it got nowhere? Maybe it even felt like you both were going in circles. More than likely one or both parties were not communicating effectively. Most importantly no one was listening to each other. The first step in being a better communicator is to practice “active listening.”
Active listening involves acknowledging not only that you are listening, but also that you are understanding what is being said. Active listening can involve asking questions for clarification during discussion or even disagreements.
You may find yourself needing to interrupt a discussion for clarification, just be sure it is ok to do so and respect the other person when you do. You might say, “Sorry, can I ask you a question?” to respectfully get clarification on a matter. The main point of active listening is by using the skill, you are able to gain more insight and understanding as to what is being said to you and you are also able to validate the other person and let them know they are being heard.
Body language can often speak louder than our words. When engaged in conversation it’s important to make sure our body reflects that we are actively listening and engaged in the conversation we are in. A great tip is to always use direct eye contact when communicating with others. This shows the other person that you are paying attention to them.
Also, remember to put away distracting things like cell phones. Or if you happen to be using technology like a computer when someone walks up to you to engage in conversation, turn away from the distracting technology and face the person. Give the other person your full attention so that they know you are listening and so that you are able to focus on them and practice those active listening skills. By being aware of your body language and making necessary changes to enhance communication, you also enhance the connection that is made during communication.
The use of “I” statements involve using the pronoun “I,”to attribute responsibility to the speaker using the “I” statement. An example of “I” statements would be: say you are at work and there is a report you are working on and the deadline is soon approaching, but you are struggling. When your boss or coworker approaches you to ask about the report, you could say this: “I am getting backed up and feeling a little stressed. I don’t have that report yet.”
By using “I” statements you make your feelings known and at the same time take ownership of your feelings and any responsibility you had. “I” statements challenge the speaker to OWN his/her own feelings and use language that indicates their awareness that each person is responsible for their own thoughts and behavior.
Take the “I” statement challenge! Try using 1-2 “I” statements per day. Post your outcomes on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to support you in improving your communication with others. It may seem strange at first, but work through the awkwardness and try it. What do you have to lose?!