Wonderful people, do I have a treat for you. One of the things I am most passionate about is communication. I think this topic makes me light up because we desperately need connection as human beings and helping facilitate communication grows relationships. There’s also a piece of me that likes to get what I want and good communication skills sure do help.
So I thought I’d share my top 10 communication tips:
- Listen for deeper meaning. Can you imagine the feelings behind what they’re saying? You do not have to think that it’s logical for them to feel the way they do. You may not feel they have the right to feel the way they do. But the fact is, they do. Can you try to understand why? That will give you a place to first acknowledge their feelings and then respond rather than react.
- If this is someone you care about, avoid jumping to conclusions. Ask questions to clarify before coming to your conclusion. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Take a break if you need to! “Don’t go to bed angry” is not always great advice. Now, that being said, please try to avoid being passive-aggressive. “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this” can be a rather hurtful statement. Can you try something closer to “This doesn’t seem like it’s helping? Can we take a break and come back to this at 7? After we’ve had some time to think about what we want?”. It doesn’t have to sound exactly like that, just let your partner (not romantically speaking, partner in communication) know that this isn’t helpful and you’d like to take a break to cool off and come back to it.
- Know what you want going into the conversation. Sometimes we honestly go into a conversation just to cause damage. If we’re aware that that’s our purpose, we might choose not to engage. Or it might help us clarify what we really want. We might think we want to cause damage but in reality, we want our communication partner to hear how hurt we are and know that we’re worthy of respect. There might very well be a more effective way to communicate that than by lashing out
- Absolutely follow the golden rule. Treat others how you would want to be treated. Can you try to think about how they might be feeling? If someone is being vulnerable, try imagining how they might feel before you respond. What can you say that they would respond best to? You have to be a bit of a salesman here. If they say that they’re really angry that you forgot something important to them (maybe in less nice words), how can you be true to both your message and still give it to them in a package that treats them the way you would want to be treated if you were upset (please note that you might not get upset that they forgot something important to you- that’s not important. What’s important is the feeling).
- For the love of all things good, don’t call names. Just don’t. It damages relationships and you can’t take that back.
- Be quick to apologize and try to be quick to forgive. However, if your communication partner isn’t ready to forgive, can you give space? This is a tough one. Please try not to punish your communication partner by holding forgiveness over their head and out of reach. But also try to assume that they’re honestly struggling, not punishing. I feel like those are two HUGE main themes: all feelings are valid- it doesn’t matter if you agree with them and assume the best of your communication partner when possible.
- All responses make a behavior either more likely to occur again or less likely to occur again. In so many ways, we try to avoid vulnerability as human beings and one way we do that is making “quiet” bids for connection. They’re like little “do you care about me tests”. So when your communication partner shares a funny meme and you never respond, you make it less likely that they’ll do that again. Pay attention to the little bids for connection or people don’t make big bids for connection. This goes double for kids. If you don’t listen to them talk about the drama with their friend, they’re not likely to tell you when something big goes wrong or right.
- Try not to gossip. When we gossip to friends or loved ones about others, we plant a seed of doubt in them that we’re gossiping about them as well. Brene Brown addresses this in her book “Braving the Wilderness”. When we have friends based on judging and hating others, it makes us feel like we can’t trust them and then it’s not a strong friendship. It doesn’t build you up.
- Be kind whenever it’s possible. It doesn’t cost anything and it doesn’t take away from your light. Your beauty and awesomeness and happiness is like a candle; lighting someone else’s candle does not take away from yours. So pay someone a compliment whenever you can. Strangers, people you love, people you don’t like but have to deal with, etc. Be kind.
I hope this helps! These are not all easy tips. Many of them take mastery which is usually only achieved through lots of practice. If you’re struggling with them and could use help, seek a professional. Be well, friends!
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.