We may think that communicating is easy, after all we're constantly keeping in touch with each other through speech, text, online. But in order to communicate well we need to take many different factors into account. And don't forget that much of the information we receive is communicated non-verbally, though subtle clues in our breathing, stance and body language.
Let's reflect on three ways to improve our communication skills. Let's consider our ABC's.
Your Communication A's
Being assertive is important, especially if something really serious needs addressing, but assertiveness needs to be handled appropriately. There's an old saying, 'you may win the battle but lose the war'. Loud indignation, shouting and threats may result in you getting your desired outcome, but what are the long-term consequences of such behavior? Listen and negotiate a trade-off, where both sides come away with their dignity intact, having gained some advantage. Discover the most effective way to communicate.
Arguments. There are three different types of argument; constructive, where everybody wins and resolves each point of disagreement, destructive where no one wins, leaving everyone to retreat feeling wounded and damaged and thirdly, productive, where all agree to disagree, learn more about each other's opinions and come away respecting the different outlooks and perspectives. Knowing this may help you reflect on the best way to handle future disagreements.
Your Communication B's
Brevity can be useful. It is hard to continue paying attention when someone is delivering a long-winded explanation, particularly in times of stress or tension. Focus on what's important, what your key message or point is, rather than becoming distracted or preoccupied with explaining or justifying every nuance of your story.
Banter can oil the wheels of our communications. A little well-placed, affectionate humour can defuse a tense atmosphere, allow everyone to appreciate the ridiculousness of the situation and start to laugh at themselves and each other.
Boundaries are important when it comes to respecting how we communicate; what we can say, when, how and to whom. Before you quickly retort, fire off an email or comment on social media remember that people won't necessarily remember how they behaved or what they said, but they will recall your subsequent comments and reactions. Sometimes we need to pause and double-check whether we're perhaps over-stepping the mark or interfering in something that isn't really our concern.
Your Communication C's
Crises. Invest in maintaining good communications in your relationships so that any issues or misunderstandings can be dealt with before they reach crisis point. Don't wait until things become serious or distressing before you start talking to each other. Try to allow time each day to share your thoughts and feelings and have real conversations.
All too often our busy lives can result in us giving each other quick updates, or simply delivering instructions, like 'we're out of milk'. But that gradually causes us to lose touch with each other and can result in us living together in a house share, rather than as a couple. Try to sit and talk properly every day, even if it's only for twenty minutes over a brew. Your relationship is worth that investment.
Use compassion and appreciate the importance of choosing your words carefully. They can be the most cutting of all our weapons, causing someone real hurt and despair. Equally they can raise someone's spirits and motivate them to become the very best version of themselves. Think of those inspirational orators and how their words have come to epitomise a movement or become uplifting quotes, inspiring us to continue striving to better ourselves. Choose your words well.
Self-criticism. Many people speak to themselves more harshly than they ever would to anyone else. It can be all too easy to berate ourselves for something that we would hardly comment on in another person's behaviour. Notice how you talk to yourself, especially when something doesn't work out as you'd hope and learn to be kinder and more tolerant of yourself. Find positive affirmations, aim to heal yourself and get back on track.
All good communications include listening skills. They require staying on point and saying what's relevant rather than being totally focused on finding a pause in the conversation to jump in with your own point of view. Tailoring your written or verbal interactions to what's relevant makes for a much more satisfying and successful two-way conversation rather than running two separate and independent monologues.