The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.Anthony Robbins
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important life skills. How we communicate with others strongly influences the quality of our relationships among family, friends, colleagues, romantic partners, and even strangers. When we communicate effectively, we can more easily express ourselves and our ideas while creating a safe space for productive conversation. To communicate well is to ensure that we are understanding and being understood. On the contrary, poor communication can lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and damaged relationships.
Communication is more than what one says. Communication also includes tone and volume of voice, the intention behind the message, the information discussed, and body language used. All of these factors interact to create a conversation, but if we do not consider these details our communication can go awry. Judging others, not being attentive, and not acknowledging the feelings of others can act as a barrier to effective communication.
Communication is something that needs to be practiced. Below are several skills that can help to cultivate an effective communication style.
Practice Active Listening
Instead of thinking about what to say next, practice fully engaging in a conversation by attentively listening to the other person. This can increase understanding and deepen the connection between the communicating parties. It also allows the other person to feel heard and understood, which can lower tension within a conversation. To be an engaged listener, it is important to focus fully on the speaker, avoid interrupting or redirecting the conversation, and show interest in what is being said.
Be Willing to Compromise
When we engage in active listening, we can better understand and empathize with others. When we fully see both sides of a conversation, we can find space to bend a little and find some middle ground that can reduce stress among the communicating parties. It can also strengthen the relationship between two individuals by acknowledging and allowing room for the needs of others.
Notice Your Emotions
During heated conversations, it can be easy to lose control of our tempers or find ourselves stressed. If we communicate through negative feelings, our communication styles can become aggressive and cause the other party to feel attacked or spoken down to. By being mindful our emotions, we can identify when we may require space to calm down before communicating further. Communication is important. If we need a break to regulate our emotions to better express how we feel, we should take it.
Effective communication involves advocating for our needs. By learning to say no, we allow others an opportunity to compromise and allow us to fulfill our own needs. Where it is important to compromise with others, it is important to recognize when we need others to compromise with us. By utilizing assertiveness, we can better communicate our wants and needs with others in a respectful and effective manner. Using “I” statements can prevent others from feeling attacked while advocating for ourselves.
Avoiding judgment can allow us to better empathize with others. By judging others, we cause feelings of being criticized or degraded, and we can irreparably damage our relationships with others. As effective communicators, it is our responsibility to listen and seek to understand– not judge. Allowing others to feel heard without feeling judged can build trust.
Clarify, Summarize, and Offer Feedback
Our role as effective communicators is to offer perspective and support to others. Clarifying involves asking questions to ensure we are understanding the information as the other person intends. Summarizing, or reviewing what we have heard, can allow the other person to clarify and address misunderstandings if needed. Additionally, it can show that we are listening and understanding the other person. Finally, offering feedback can show support and validation to individuals during a vulnerable time. Feedback should be constructive, honest, and respectful.
Okay, peeps! It’s your turn: What communication skills have you adopted that have positively changed the way you communicate with others?