Tips on Effective Communication
If I have learned anything about communication, it’s how to do it ineffectively. Being the introvert that I am, in the past I would do almost anything to avoid what I would consider unnecessary communication. For a while, saying a simple “hello” or “how was your weekend?” didn’t seem important to me. My experience as a poor communicator has actually taught me that communication is a huge contributor to feeling empathy for someone.
According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to… the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.” In other words- putting oneself in another person’s shoes. So, what does communication have to do with any of this? A lack of communication can show others that you have a lack of empathy towards them. Now this is not always the case. There are people that are work orientated during their job or while at school, and they can seem like they’re being very aloof with the people they interact with. A lot time it’s just that they are focused on a single task at hand. This is just everyday life for the average person. However, it becomes an issue when the people you’re trying to communicate with are those who you are very close to.
Here are some tips from Loveisrespect on how to work on effective communication:
- Find the Right Time. If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you is really busy!
- Talk Face to Face. Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters and emails can be misinterpreted. Talk in person so there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications. If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.
- Do Not Attack. Even when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choice. Using “you” can sound like you’re attacking, which will make your partner defensive and less receptive to your message. Instead, try using “I” or “we.” For example, say “I feel like we haven’t been as close lately” instead of “You have been distant with me.”
- Be Honest. Agree to be honest. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s the key to a healthy relationship. Admit that you aren’t always perfect and apologize when you make a mistake instead of making excuses. You will feel better and it will help strengthen your relationship.
- Check Your Body Language. Let your partner know you’re really listening by giving them your full attention: sit up, face them and make eye contact when speaking. Don’t take a phone call, text or play a video game when you’re talking. Show your partner you respect them by listening and responding.
- Use the 48 Hour Rule. If your partner does something that makes you angry, you need to tell them about it, but you don’t have to do so right away. If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something. If not, consider forgetting about it. Just remember, your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change. Once you mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologies, let it go. Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.
Though some of the tips may refer to a partner or someone you are in a relationship with, it doesn’t just apply to them. It also applies to loved ones, coworkers, friends and family members alike. Take it from someone who still struggles with communication now and then, these skills take practice but are very much worth it in the end.
Merriam-Webster. (2017). Empathy. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy
National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2017). How can we communicate better: Healthy relationships. Retrieved from http://www.loveisrespect.org/healthy-relationships/communicate-better/